U.S. President Joe Biden is meeting in Warsaw on March 26 with two Ukrainian ministers — the first face-to-face meeting between the U.S. president and top Kyiv officials since the start of Russia’s unprovoked invasion — before wrapping up his whirlwind European tour with a major speech.
On the frontline, a senior Ukrainian official announced an agreement to open 10 evacuation corridors from the besieged port of Mariupol, while Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko announced a fresh curfew until early next week in the capital as fighting continued around the city and in other flashpoints.
A regional official said Russian forces have taken control of a town where workers at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant live.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov ventured a rare trip out of Ukraine in a possible sign of growing confidence in the fightback against Russian forces.
The White House said earlier that Biden was to “drop by” a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin with Kuleba and Reznikov in the Polish capital.
Biden last met Kuleba in Washington on February 22 — two days before Russia began its unprovoked invasion.
Since then, Kuleba also met with Blinken in Poland next to the border with Ukraine on March 5.
Biden will then end his European trip on March 26 with a major speech in Warsaw, where he will also met with Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Biden will argue in his address that the “free world” opposes Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and that there is unity among major economies on the need to stop Vladimir Putin, the White House said.
Biden held three days of emergency meetings with allies of the Group of Seven, the European Council, and NATO,. He also paid a visit to U.S. troops in Poland.
National-security adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden’s speech will cover “the stakes of this moment, the urgency of the challenge that lies ahead, what the conflict in Ukraine means for the world, and why it is so important that the free world sustain unity and resolve in the face of Russian aggression.”
Sullivan told reporters on March 25 that Biden will also talk about the “context and history of this conflict and where he sees it going from here” before boarding Air Force One to return to Washington.
Poland is host to thousands of U.S. troops as part of a NATO battlegroup and has taken in more than 2 million Ukrainian refugees since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
The governor of the Kyiv region, Oleksandr Pavlyuk, said Russian forces have taken control of the town of Slavutych, where workers at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant live.
Battle lines near Kyiv have been frozen for weeks with two main Russian armored columns stuck northwest and east of the city. A fresh curfew will be imposed on Kyiv from March 26 until the morning of March 28, Mayor Vitali Klitschko announced.
“The military command decided to reinforce the curfew. It will start from 8 p.m. on March 26 and last until 7 a.m. on March 28,” Klitschko said on Telegram.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said an agreement had been reached to set up 10 humanitarian corridors on March 26 to evacuate civilians from front line hotspots in the besieged city of Mariupol, where more than 100,000 people still need to be evacuated from.
Vereshchuk said civilians trying to leave Mariupol would have to travel by private cars as Russian forces were not letting buses through their checkpoints. The information could not be independently confirmed.
Footage from Mariupol, home to 400,000 people before the war, showed destroyed buildings and burned-out vehicles. Residents have buried victims in makeshift graves as the ground thaws.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy made a surprise video appearance on March 26 at Qatar’s Doha Forum, calling on the energy-rich nations to boost their output to prevent Moscow’s use of energy exports as a lever in relations with countries dependent on oil and gas imports.
“I ask you to increase the output of energy to ensure that everyone in Russia understands that no one can use energy as a weapon to blackmail the world,” Zelenskiy said.
In a video address late March 25, Zelenskiy said his troops’ resistance had dealt Russia “powerful blows” and reiterated his call for urgent peace negotiations.
“Our defenders are leading the Russian leadership to a simple and logical idea: We must talk, talk meaningfully, urgently and fairly,” Zelenskiy said.
Kuleba said on Twitter that there had not yet been a consensus in peace negotiations.
“Ukraine’s position is clear: cease-fire, security guarantees, no compromises on territorial integrity. But Russia sticks to ultimatums,” he said.
He added that Ukraine needs more sanctions and more military aid “to stimulate a more constructive approach.”
Biden spent March 25 visiting U.S. troops near the Polish border with Ukraine amid signals from Moscow that the Kremlin has scaled back its goals in its attack on its neighbor to concentrate on capturing Ukrainian territory claimed by Russia-backed separatists in the east.
After a month of fighting, Russia has yet to take a major city in Ukraine, and Ukrainian forces have recaptured some territory in pitched battles just outside of Kyiv.