US First Lady Jill Biden has paid an unannounced visit to western Ukraine and held a surprise meeting with her Ukrainian counterpart Olena Zelensky.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian media have reported that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also paid an unannounced visit to the country.
Ms Biden traveled in secret for security reasons as the country is still ravaged by the Russian invasion, which has now lasted ten weeks.
She told Ms. Zelensky, “I felt it was important to show the Ukrainian people that this war must stop and that this war was brutal and that the people of the United States stand behind the people of Ukraine.”
The first lady traveled by vehicle to the town of Uzhhorod, about a 10-minute drive from a Slovak village that borders Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Mr Trudeau was pictured in front of bombed buildings as he spoke to people affected by the war now being fought mainly in the east of the country.
His surprise visit was to Irpin, a suburb of the capital Kyiv that had previously been attacked by Russian fighters.
Mayor Olexander Markushyn wrote on Telegram: “He came to Irpin to see with his own eyes all the horrors that the Russian occupiers had done to our city.
“And of course he was shocked. After all, he did not see military installations burned and utterly destroyed, but the homes of the residents of Irpin, who until recently were enjoying life and having their own plans for the future.
“My sincere thanks to Mr. Trudeau for Canada’s support to Ukraine today.”
Confirming the visit, his office said in a statement: “The Prime Minister is in Ukraine to meet with President Zelenskyy and reaffirm Canada’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people.”
Thanking Ms. Biden for her “brave act,” the wife of Ukraine’s President said: “We understand what it takes for the US First Lady to come here during a war, when military action is happening every day, where the air sirens are happening every day – even today.’
President Joe Biden, during a visit to Poland in March, said he was disappointed he couldn’t visit Ukraine to see conditions “firsthand” but likely wouldn’t be allowed to do so for security reasons.
The White House said just last week that the President “would like to visit” but had no plans for him.
However, other senior US officials have visited and met with President Volodymyr Zelensky, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
In Slovakia, Ms. Biden attended a service in a tent set up as a chapel, where a priest intoned, “We pray for the people of Ukraine.”
Earlier in Kosice, she met with Ukrainian mothers displaced by the Russian war and offered them support, assuring them that the “hearts of the American people” are behind them.
At a bus stop that is now a 24-hour refugee processing center, Ms Biden had an extended conversation with a Ukrainian woman who said she struggled to declare war on her three children because she couldn’t understand it herself.
“I can’t explain it because I don’t know myself and I’m a teacher,” said Victorie Kutocha.
“It’s so hard to understand,” the First Lady replied.
In recent weeks, there have been an average of fewer than 2,000 border crossings from Ukraine into Slovakia per day, compared with more than 10,000 per day immediately after the Russian invasion on February 24.
Ms. Biden is on a four-day visit to Eastern Europe to highlight U.S. support for Ukrainian refugees and for allied countries like Romania and Slovakia that provide them with a safe haven.
She spent Friday and Saturday in Romania visiting US troops and meeting Ukrainian refugee mothers and children.
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https://metro.co.uk/2022/05/08/jill-biden-and-justin-trudeau-make-surprise-trips-to-ukraine-as-war-rages-16606563/ Jill Biden and Justin Trudeau make a surprise trip to Ukraine as the war rages on