Published: 21:56, April 25, 2022 | Updated: 22:48, April 25, 2022
Russia announces ceasefire near Azovstal plant in Mariupol
By Xinhua

People look at a burning apartment building in a yard after shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 13, 2022. (EVGENIY MALOETKA / AP)

MOSCOW / WARSAW / KYIV - Russia's Defense Ministry on Monday announced a ceasefire near the Azovstal plant in Mariupol for the safe evacuation of civilians.

Russia's armed forces and the formations of the Donetsk People's Republic "from 14:00 Moscow time on April 25 will unilaterally cease all hostilities" to ensure the safe evacuation of the specified category of civilians (workers, women and children), the ministry said in a statement.

It said the civilians will be taken "in any direction they choose."

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The decision was guided by "purely humanitarian principles," the ministry added. 

In this image provided by the US Department of Defense, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken meet with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on April 24, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. (DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE / AFP)

US diplomats to return to Ukraine

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Monday that American diplomats will start returning to Ukraine next week, and announced US President Joe Biden's intention to nominate Bridget Brink as the new ambassador to Ukraine.

Blinken told Zelensky that the United States intends to obligate more than $713 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine and 15 other partner nations, according to a US State Department news release

Speaking at a news conference in southeastern Poland after paying a visit to Ukraine during the weekend with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Blinken said the meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had lasted for three hours.

Blinken told Zelensky that the United States intends to obligate more than $713 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine and 15 other partner nations, according to a US State Department news release.

He also said the State Department had notified the Congress of a sale of non-standard ammunition worth up to $165 million to Ukraine.

It was the first visit of US government officials to Kyiv since Russia's military operation in Ukraine.

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During the meeting, the parties also discussed strengthening sanctions on Russia and security guarantees, according to a statement on the Ukrainian presidential website.

The United States has provided $3.4 billion in defense support for Ukraine, marking the largest contribution to strengthening Ukraine's defense capabilities, according the statement.

While speaking on the financial assistance, Zelensky voiced hope that the United States would help Ukraine in the post-conflict recovery and facilitate the access of Ukrainian goods to the US market.

Brink is currently the US Ambassador to Slovakia.