Zelenskyy meets with top US officials after asking for more powerful weapons from the West

ITV News Correspondent Peter Smith has the latest on the Russian invasion

The Ukrainian president pressed Western countries to send more heavy weapons to help combat the Russian military before engaging in talks with top US security officials on Sunday.

In the first high level US trip to Kyiv since before the war began on February 24, Volodymyr Zelenskyy was said to have met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin in the Ukrainian capital.

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, said in an interview late on Sunday that the talks are going on “right now”. The US has not commented.

Mr Zelenskyy had earlier said that he was looking for Americans to produce results, both in terms of arms and security guarantees.

“You can’t come to us empty-handed today, and we are expecting not just presents or some kind of cakes, we are expecting specific things and specific weapons,″ he said.

While the West has provided military equipment to Ukraine, Mr Zelenskyy has stressed repeatedly that his country needs more heavy weapons, including long-range air defence systems, as well as warplanes.

Ukrainian forces have managed to successfully repel assaults along the line of contact in the Donbas this week- the new focus in the war- according to an update from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Sunday.

The MoD said that "poor Russian morale" and limited time to reorganise their troops are among the factors hindering the efforts of the invading forces in Ukraine.

In a later update, the ministry said that Russia is planning a staged referendum in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson aimed at justifying its occupation.

"The city is key to Russia's objective of establishing a land bridge to Crimea and dominating southern Ukraine."

Despite Ukrainian forces putting up a heavy resistance, Russian assaults continue, reinforcing the want in Kyiv for Ukraine to have more powerful weapons to defend against enemy attacks.

The Russian military reported hitting 423 Ukrainian targets overnight, including fortified positions and troop concentrations.

The country's warplanes were also said to have destroyed 26 Ukrainian military sites, including an explosives factory and several artillery depots.

Neither of these claims could be independently verified.

Before his meeting with Mr Blinken, Mr Zelenskyy said on Sunday that he talked with Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan about the need for the immediate evacuation of civilians from the besieged port city of Mariupol.

Mr Zelenskyy and Mr Erdogan speak during a meeting in Kyiv in February. Credit: AP

"I stressed the need for immediate evacuation of civilians from Mariupol, including Azovstal, and immediate exchange of blocked troops," he said on Twitter.

Turkey- a Nato member- has good relations with Ukraine and Russia, sharing a maritime border in the Black Sea with both of the countries.

But the Turkish president was said to have highlighted during the phone call that the evacuation of the wounded and civilians in Mariupol must be ensured as "the situation gets more saddening by the day".

Speaking from Kyiv’s ancient St. Sophia Cathedral earlier on Sunday, Mr Zelenskyy vowed that Ukraine will emerge victorious from the war in a defiant Orthodox Easter message. “The great holiday today gives us great hope and unwavering faith that light will overcome darkness, good will overcome evil, life will overcome death, and therefore Ukraine will surely win!” he said.

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Updates from key areas:

Mariupol - Russian forces have once again tried to storm a steel plant, Ukraine claims, that is the last defensive stronghold in the strategic port city of Mariupol.

Ukrainian officials have estimated that about 2,000 of their troops along with civilians are taking refuge in its tunnels.

Ukrainian forces said Russia was continuing to pummel the plant, hitting it with air strikes, including by long-range aircraft on Sunday.

A place of deep symbolic and strategic value to Moscow, a nearly two-month siege has reduced much of the city to a smoking ruin.

More than 100,000 people - down from a pre-war population of about 430,000 - are believed to remain in Mariupol with scant food, water or heat. Ukrainian authorities estimate that more than 20,000 civilians have been killed in the city.

Yet another attempt to evacuate women, children and older adults from Mariupol failed on Saturday. 

Watch ITV News Correspondent Peter Smith's report on the Odesa strike

Odesa - At least eight people were killed, including a three-month-old baby, after a Russian missile attack on Odesa, President Zelenskyy said on Saturday - 18 others were injured.

The baby girl- Kira- and her mother Valeria Glodan have been named as among those who were killed.

"The war started when this baby was one month old. Can you imagine what is happening?" President Zelenskyy said.

ITV News Correspondent Peter Smith explains why the Odesa missile attack provoked such a furious response in the Ukrainian president

Kherson - The Ukrainian military said on Saturday it had destroyed a Russian command post in Kherson, a southern city that fell to Russian forces early in the war.

The command post was hit on Friday, killing two generals and critically wounding another, the Ukrainian military intelligence agency said.

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire on a warehouse amid Russian bombardments in Kharkiv. Credit: AP

The Donbas - Russia said it took control of several villages in the eastern Donbas region and destroyed 11 Ukrainian military targets overnight, including three artillery warehouses. Russian attacks also struck populated areas.

Ukrainian officials have announced a nationwide curfew ahead of Easter Sunday, a sign of the war’s disruption and threat to the entire country.