Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin will meet with Zelenskyy in Kyiv Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy plans to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Sunday. The State Department declined to comment to NPR.

2 U.S. Cabinet officials will meet with Zelenskyy in Kyiv

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to start in Ukraine, where President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Western leaders not to come to Ukraine just looking for a photo op, what he called a tragic selfie. He made the comments at a rare lengthy press conference in a fortified subway station in downtown Kyiv, where he also disclosed what had been closely guarded information that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would both be traveling to Ukraine's capital soon. But as fighting has intensified in the east, Zelenskyy made clear that he did not want his time wasted with words of encouragement. He said he wanted weapons.

NPR's Franco Ordoñez was at the press conference, and he's with us now from Kyiv to tell us more. Franco, welcome. Thank you for joining us.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hi, Michel.

MARTIN: So tell us what more you can tell us about what Zelenskyy said.

ORDOÑEZ: Well, it was a two-hour press conference that touched on many issues. He spoke from deep down in the subway station by the central square of Maidan. And this was only his second press conference since the start of the war. You know, he was very thankful to the support that he's received from Western leaders, particularly from the United States, which he said had been crucial in rallying allies around Ukraine. But he was also adamant that those leaders needed to act faster in order to save innocent lives in communities like Mariupol, which are on the verge of collapse. And he said those who come to visit - and he added the American diplomats, including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken - needed to arrive with weapons.

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VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY: (Through interpreter) We're not a country for a tragic selfie. We have real war.

ORDOÑEZ: You know, he was also questioned a lot about his willingness to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite the alleged brutality that has emerged during the war. But he said he must pursue every option for a diplomatic resolution in order to save lives.

MARTIN: I want to hear more about the whole question of whether he will meet with the Russian president. But before that, what's the latest on the fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine? There were reports of new strikes today in the south, correct?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. There were multiple strikes in the port city of Odessa. Zelenskyy said eight people died in those blasts, including a three-month old child. And Zelenskyy got really, really emotional talking about that child.

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ZELENSKYY: A three-month newborn child died - three months child. Just try to grasp it. Three months old. When the war started, this child was a month old. And the child died. Just realize it. Grasp it.

ORDOÑEZ: I mean, you can really hear the passion in his voice there. And he said he wants to prevent this from happening to another three-month-old child. And just to add in the east, he said conditions are just getting worse where the Russians have shifted their focus to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

MARTIN: Franco, you mentioned earlier that President Zelenskyy still says he wants to meet Putin, but at the same time, he is calling for war crimes investigations. Is that correct?

ORDOÑEZ: Yes. And he did not mince words about it. He was very clear that war crimes will be pursued. You know, he equated what is happening to fascism, but in this call, he called it Russia-ism (ph). Here's how he put it.

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ZELENSKYY: (Through interpreter) Russia-ism, as we say, this will be there in history books, in Wikipedias or something. This will be carved in stone.

ORDOÑEZ: You know, and he said that the perpetrators of these war crimes would be brought to justice. He said it may take years, and it might even be up to the next generation of Ukrainians to complete. But he said he was confident that those responsible would be held accountable.

MARTIN: That was NPR's Franco Ordoñez in Kyiv. Franco, thanks to you and all of your team for your reporting there.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you, Michel.

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