Biden makes a surprise trip to Ukraine to meet Zelenskyy

President Biden made a surprise stop in Kiev, Ukraine on Monday to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and broke the news of fresh aid as the nation prepares to mark the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion.

“It’s good to be back in Kyiv,” said Biden, who wore a tie in the Ukrainian colors of blue and yellow. It was Biden’s first trip to the capital since the war began and his eighth visit overall. He spent about five hours in Kiev before leaving the city.

Ambassador Bridget Brink greeted him upon his arrival, and Zelensky and Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska greeted Biden when he arrived at the Mariinsky Palace just after 8:30 a.m. local time.

As leaders headed for a bilateral meeting, Biden noted the reason for the unannounced halt: “I felt it was crucial that there is no doubt, absolutely none, of US support for Ukraine in the war.”

He noted that while some in Congress have called for a delay in aid to Ukraine, the nation’s cause has broad support. “It’s not just about freedom in Ukraine… It’s about the freedom of democracy in general.”

In joint remarks with Zelenskyy, Biden announced half a billion dollars in additional aid to Ukraine, including military equipment, with more details to be released in the coming days. The announcement comes as Biden faces increasing pressure from Kyiv and at home to follow his recent offer main battle tank with a stock of F-16 fighter jets.

“Russia’s goal was to wipe Ukraine off the map,” Biden said. “Putin’s war of conquest fails.”

“Putin thought Ukraine was weak and the West divided… He thought he could outlive us. I don’t think he thinks that now.”

Zelensky thanked Biden for his leadership and the Americans for their support from the start of the war.

Biden, left, meets with Zelenskyy at the Mariinsky Palace during an unannounced visit in Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, February 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool)

The President of Ukraine said the discussion about the US sending long-range missiles to Ukraine is ongoing. Noting the bailout package announced by Biden, Zelenskyy said the moment was a “clear signal that Russia’s restart attempts will not stand a chance.”

“This conversation brings us closer to victory,” Zelenskyj said. “Today our negotiations were very fruitful … They were very important and crucial.”

“Historical. Punctual. Brave. I welcomed @POTUS to Kiev as full-scale Russian aggression nears its one-year mark. I am grateful to the US for standing by Ukraine and for our strong partnership. We are determined to work together to ensure Ukraine’s victory,” said Zelenskyy said later on Twitter.

Biden told Zelenskyy of “American unwavering support for the nation’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“So many have kept the Ukrainian people, especially women and children, in their prayers,” Biden said. “You can’t imagine the idea of ​​everything from orphanages to schools being shelled. It’s barbaric.”

After nearly two hours at the palace, the guides traveled a short distance to the gold-domed St. Michael’s Cathedral in central Kiev, where they took a stroll around the complex, a symbol of the Ukrainian resistance.

The cathedral’s sky-blue and gold buildings sheltered pro-Western protesters under a Russian-backed president in 2013.

Air raid sirens could be heard across the city as the two leaders exited the cathedral.

Biden’s trip followed National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Sunday that there are “no plans” for Biden to even cross the border to enter Ukraine on his planned trip to Poland this week.

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters Monday morning that the government had given Russian officials a tip about the trip ahead of Biden’s departure for Ukraine “for reasons of conflict resolution.”

After leaving Kyiv, Biden was scheduled to attend a bilateral meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda and make remarks on global unity in Warsaw.

Vice President Harris said late last week the US had done so formally established Russia committed crimes against humanity during the war and the fighting is expected to enter its second year later this week.

Biden’s visit follows Zelenskyy’s historic trip to the US in December when the two leaders spoken in the White House and later with the Ukrainian leader addressed a joint session of Congress in an impassioned plea for global unity and additional aid to his nation.

A number of other senior US figures have traveled to Ukraine since the war began, including former Spokesperson Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who led a congressional delegation to meet with Zelenskyy in May, just a few months after the invasion.

Biden is also the youngest world leader to personally travel to Ukraine. Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron each made separate trips to the war-torn nation last year.

–Julia Mueller and Brett Samuels contributed to this evolving report Biden makes a surprise trip to Ukraine to meet Zelenskyy

Sarah Y. Kim

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