Live updates l Blinken says US diplomats should visit Kiev again

LVIV, Ukraine – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says US diplomats are planning to return to Ukraine as soon as possible.

Blinken made the comment during a conversation with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. A nighttime statement Sunday, Blinken told Kuleba that America “intends to return to Kiev as soon as possible.”

He said diplomats had made “first visits” to Lviv to prepare.

The US evacuated its embassy in Kiev in February, just before Russia launched its war against the country. The US drove diplomats across the Polish border to work every day in Lviv, a city in western Ukraine some 470 kilometers (290 miles) away, before halting the practice.

Lviv has been largely spared in the conflict, although a rocket attack a few days ago targeted a railway facility near the city.

The US is one of Ukraine’s main lenders in the war, providing billions in aid and weapons.

IMPORTANT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAN WAR:

– Ukrainian troops fight against Russia’s advance in the eastern region of Donbas

– Wives of Mariupol defenders call for evacuation of soldiers from last holding area

– Some Ukrainians are going back across the frontline to homes despite dangers

– Ukrainian women learn to clear landmines on course in Kosovo

– Angelina Jolie makes surprising visit to Ukraine, meets children

Follow all AP stories about Russia’s war against Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

LVIV, Ukraine – British military says the Russian ruble will be used as currency in a Ukrainian city captured by Moscow earlier in the war.

The British army wrote that the city of Kherson will begin the transition from the Ukrainian hryvnia to the ruble for four months from Sunday. The British Ministry of Defense said the move is “an indication of Russia’s long-term intention to exert strong political and economic influence in Kherson”.

It added: “Continuing control over Kherson and its transport links will enhance Russia’s ability to support its advance north and west and improve the security of Russia’s control of Crimea.”

Kherson is located about 450 kilometers southeast of the Ukrainian capital Kiev. Russia captured the city across the Crimean peninsula in early March.

Kiev, Ukraine – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy switched to Russian in his overnight video address to urge Russian soldiers not to fight in Ukraine, saying even their generals expected thousands of them to die.

He said Russia has recruited new troops “with little motivation and little combat experience” for the units that were gutted during the early weeks of the war so that those units can be returned to the battle.

He said Russian commanders fully understand that thousands of them will die and thousands more will be injured in the coming weeks.

“The Russian commanders are lying to their soldiers when they say that they can be seriously held responsible for their refusal to fight and do not tell them, for example, that the Russian army is preparing additional refrigerated trucks to store the bodies. † They don’t tell them about the new losses the generals expect,” Zelenskyy said late Saturday.

“Any Russian soldier can still save his own life. It is better for you to survive in Russia than to die on our land,” he said.

STOCKHOLM – Sweden says a Russian military plane violated Swedish airspace.

The incident happened late Friday in the Baltic Sea near the island of Bornholm.

In a statement Saturday, the Swedish Armed Forces said a Russian AN-30 propeller plane flew toward Swedish airspace and entered it shortly before leaving the area.

The Swedish Air Force deployed fighter jets that photographed the Russian plane.

Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist told Swedish public radio that the violation was “unacceptable” and “unprofessional”.

In a similar incident in early March, four Russian warplanes violated Swedish airspace over the Baltic Sea.

Sweden and neighboring Finland are both considering joining NATO after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Moscow has warned that such a move would have consequences, without giving details.

LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson discussed progress in UN efforts to evacuate people from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol and “offered the UK continued economic and humanitarian support” during a meeting Saturday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskky.

“The prime minister reiterated his commitment than ever to strengthening Ukraine and ensuring that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin fails, and noted how hard the Ukrainians are fighting for their freedom,” Johnson’s Downing Street office said. .

“He confirmed that the UK will continue to provide additional military assistance to provide the Ukrainians with the equipment they need to defend themselves,” the statement said.

The United Nations has tried to effect an evacuation in the port city, which is still home to about 100,000 civilians. According to Ukrainian officials, up to 1,000 civilians are living under a Soviet-era steel factory in Mariupol.

Ukraine has not said how many fighters there are in the factory, but the Russians estimate the number at about 2,000.

A Russian missile strike destroyed an airport runway in Odessa, Ukraine’s third-largest city and a major port on the Black Sea, the Ukrainian military said on Saturday.

In a Telegram post, Ukraine’s Operational Command South said there is no possibility that the Odessa runway could be used as a result of the missile strike.

Local authorities urged residents of the area to take shelter there as Ukraine’s UNIAN news agency, citing army sources, reported hearing “several” explosions in Odessa.

The regional governor of Odessa said the missile was fired from Russian-occupied Crimea. Maksym Marchenko said there were no reports of injuries.

Russian forces have embarked on a major military operation to seize key parts of southern and eastern Ukraine, the country’s industrial heart, and the coasts of the Black Sea and the Sea of ​​Azov.

Kiev, Ukraine – Ukraine’s national grid operator says it has restored “reliable” power in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, around the site of the 1986 nuclear reactor disaster.

“In the afternoon, the last 330 kV power line needed was commissioned,” state-owned company Ukrenergo wrote in a Telegram post on Saturday.

According to the same report, Ukrenergo also repaired another 330 kV line in the northern region of Kiev last night, stabilizing energy supplies in the capital. It said reconstruction of further transmission lines in and around Kiev is underway.

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