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Russian War “Hard to Understand” – NBC10 Philadelphia

Jill Biden paid an unannounced visit to western Ukraine on Sunday, holding a surprise Mother’s Day meeting with First Lady Olena Zelenska to demonstrate US support for the embattled nation as Russia presses ahead with its crushing war in the eastern regions.

She became the youngest high-profile American to enter Ukraine during the war, while Zalenska’s public appearance was her first since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24

“I wanted to come on Mother’s Day,” the US First Lady told Zelenska. “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.”

Biden spent about two hours in Ukraine, driving the vehicle to the town of Uzhhorod, about a 10-minute drive from a Slovakian border village, where she had toured a border processing plant.

Thanking Biden for her “brave act,” Zelenska 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 being heard every day — even today.” still .”

The first ladies met at a school that temporarily houses Ukrainian migrants. Zalenska came first and waited in her black SUV until Biden similarly arrived. The women climbed out of their vehicles and hugged, with Biden – who wore a wrist brace for Mother’s Day – presenting a bouquet before entering the school.

The women gathered in a small classroom, sat on either side of a wooden table and greeted each other in front of reporters before meeting privately. Zelenska and her two children are in an undisclosed location for their safety.

The visit allowed Biden to engage in the kind of personal diplomacy that her husband would happily engage in himself.

President Joe Biden, during his visit to Poland in March, said he was disappointed he couldn’t cross the border and enter Ukraine to get “firsthand” information on conditions, but probably 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 has no plans for him at this time.

The meeting came after Jill Biden expressed interest in visiting the region, including the school where she and Zalenska met and agreed on the idea of ​​spending Mother’s Day with Ukrainian mothers, Michael LaRosa said, the First Lady’s spokesman.

He said the Ukrainian government has informed the United States that Zalenska would like to meet if possible and that a meeting has been concluded in recent days. The first ladies had also recently exchanged correspondence because they were not authorized to discuss those private communications, according to US officials, who declined to provide further details.

After meeting privately for about half an hour, the First Ladies joined a group of children who live at the school to make bears out of tissue paper to give as Mother’s Day gifts.

LaRosa described their conversation as “more of a face-to-face exchange, mother-to-mother,” and said Biden was interested in how Zalenska was coping “through that lens.”

He said Zalenska told Biden that she could hold her children’s hands every night even though she couldn’t be with her husband.

The Bidens spoke by phone afterwards, he said.

Biden’s visit follows recent visits to the war-torn country by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress, and a joint trip by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.

Her visit was to western Ukraine; Russia concentrates its military power in eastern Ukraine and it was not in danger. On the same day as Biden’s visit, a Russian bomb leveled a school in eastern Ukraine whose basement housed about 90 people, with dozens feared dead. Also on Sunday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Ukraine to meet with the president and “reaffirm Canada’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people,” according to his office.

Earlier, Biden toured his border processing facility in the Slovakian border village of Vysne Nemecke and surveyed operations set up by the United Nations and aid agencies to assist Ukrainians seeking refuge. Biden attended a service in a tent set up as a chapel, where a priest intoned, “We pray for the people of Ukraine.”

And before that, at a school in Kosice, Biden offered support to Ukrainian mothers in Slovakia. She assured them that the “hearts of the American people” are behind them.

At a bus stop in the city, which is now a 24-hour refugee processing center, Biden found himself having a lengthy conversation with a Ukrainian woman who said she struggled to explain war to her three children because they didn’t understand it themselves could.

“I can’t explain it because I don’t know myself and I’m a teacher,” Victorie Kutocha, who had her arms around her 7-year-old daughter Yulie, told Biden.

At one point, Kutocha asked, “Why?” seems to be looking for an explanation for Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine on February 24.

“It’s so hard to understand,” the First Lady replied.

Biden also attended a Slovakian public school that has taken in displaced students. Slovak and Ukrainian mothers were brought together at school for a Mother’s Day event while their children made crafts to give as gifts.

She went from table to table, meeting the mothers and children, and telling some of the women that she wanted to come and “say that the hearts of the American people are with the mothers of Ukraine.”

“I just wanted to come and show you our support,” she said before heading to Vysne Nemecke.

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 offer them safe havens.

She spent Friday and Saturday in Romania, visiting US troops and meeting with Ukrainian refugee mothers and children.

With her journey, the American First Lady followed the path of formerly seated First Ladies, who also traveled to war or conflict zones.

Eleanor Roosevelt visited soldiers abroad during World War II to boost troops’ morale. Pat Nixon accompanied President Richard Nixon on his 1969 trip to South Vietnam and became the first First Lady to visit a combat zone, according to the National First Ladies’ Library. She flew 18 miles from Saigon in an open-top helicopter, escorted by US Secret Service agents.

Hillary Clinton visited a combat zone and stopped in Bosnia in 1996. Laura Bush visited Afghanistan twice, in 2005 and 2008, during the US-led war there. Melania Trump accompanied President Donald Trump to Iraq in December 2018.

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This story has been corrected to reflect that the First Lady of Ukraine’s name is Olena Zelenska, not Olena Zelenskyy.

https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/politics/jill-biden-to-ukrainian-mom-russia-war-hard-to-understand/3231950/ Russian War “Hard to Understand” – NBC10 Philadelphia

Sarah Y. Kim

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