Biden Makes Secret Visit to Kyiv, Announces Half Billion in Aid

by | Feb 21, 2023 | News | 0 comments

President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv on Monday, marking the first time a US president has visited Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion almost a year ago. The trip was highly secretive and took place as air raid sirens could be heard ringing out around Kyiv while Biden walked alongside President Volodymyr Zelensky around the gold-domed St. Michael’s Cathedral.

Biden’s visit comes at a critical moment in the 12-month conflict, with Russia preparing for an expected spring offensive and Ukraine hoping to soon retake territory. The United States and other Western nations have been rushing arms, tanks, and ammunition to Ukraine in the hopes of changing the trajectory of the war.

During his visit, Biden announced a half-billion dollars in new assistance, saying the package would include more military equipment such as artillery ammunition, more javelins, and Howitzers. He also said new sanctions would be imposed on Moscow later this week.

“One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands,” Biden said.

US officials have privately voiced hope the massive influx of weaponry to Ukraine – which includes new vehicles, longer-range missiles and Patriot air defense systems – can help Ukraine prevail on the battlefield and put Zelensky in a stronger position to negotiate an end to the war.

Biden’s public schedule didn’t reflect the trip, and White House officials repeatedly said last week that a visit to Ukraine was not in the works. Biden only decided on Friday to go ahead with the visit after huddling with top members of his national security team in the Oval Office. A few hours before he departed, the United States informed Russia of the plans to visit the Ukrainian capital for “deconfliction purposes,” according to Sullivan.

The Friday session in the Oval Office was the culmination of months of work by a tiny handful of Biden’s top aides to plan the trip around the anniversary of the start of the war. The planning included the chief of staff’s office, the National Security Council, and the White House Military Office, with input from a small number of officials at the US Secret Service, the Pentagon, and the Intelligence Community, according to deputy national security adviser Jon Finer.

Biden traveled with a relatively small entourage, including Sullivan, deputy chief of staff Jen O’Malley Dillon, and personal aide Annie Tomasini.

Zelensky himself traveled to Washington in December to meet Biden in the Oval Office and speak to a joint session of Congress – his first trip outside Ukraine since the war began. The Ukrainian leader invited Biden to visit Kyiv months ago, saying he believed it was important for the US leader to see the situation up close.


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