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US offers more than $300m in military financing as Antony Blinken visits Ukraine

Preparing for the visit by Mr Blinken and Mr Austin, Ukrainian officials had drawn up a list of weapons urgently needed from the US, including anti-missile systems, anti-aircraft systems, armoured vehicles and tanks, Mr Zelensky aide Igor Zhovkva told NBC News on Sunday.

The US and Nato allies have shown growing readiness to supply heavier equipment and more advanced weapons systems. Britain has promised to send military vehicles and is considering supplying British tanks to Poland to free up Warsaw’s Russian-designed T-72s for Ukraine.

The European Union is preparing “smart sanctions” against Russian oil imports, possibly some form of oil embargo, The Times reported on Monday, citing the European Commission’s executive vice president, Valdis Dombrovskis.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said after talks by phone with Mr Zelensky that Ankara was ready to assist in negotiations with Russia. Mr Zelensky said he discussed with Mr Erdogan the need for the immediate evacuation of civilians from the southern city of Mariupol, the site of the biggest battle of the conflict.

Russian forces on Sunday again attempted to storm the Azovstal steel plant, the main remaining Ukrainian stronghold in Mariupol, Ukrainian officials said, adding that more than 1,000 civilians are also sheltering there.

Ukraine on Sunday proposed a “special” round of negotiations with Russia to discuss the fate of the civilians and Ukrainian troops still trapped in the city, though Moscow has yet to respond publicly.

The aim of the talks would be to establish an immediate ceasefire in Mariupol, “multi-day” humanitarian corridors, and the freeing or swapping of Ukrainian fighters trapped in the plant, Ukraine’s Arestovych said.

Serhiy Volyna, commander of Ukraine’s 36th Marine brigade forces in Mariupol, said Russia was hitting the plant with air and artillery bombardments.

“We are taking casualties, the situation is critical… we have very many wounded men, (some) are dying … the situation is rapidly worsening,” he said.

Moscow has previously declared victory in the city and said it did not need to take the plant.

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