US President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv Monday morning, arriving in the city as air-raid sirens blared.
Biden’s visit came just four days before the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Thousands of Ukrainians have been killed in the war, and the US has supported Ukraine with at least $30 billion in military aid, including high tech weapons and artillery considered critical to Ukrainian military success.
After US Air Force planes began patrolling the border with Poland and Ukraine Monday morning and reports that much of central Kyiv was under a security lockdown, Biden arrived outside St Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery – a key landmark in the Ukrainian capital – with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as part of a large motorcade.
“One year later, Kyiv still stands,” Biden told the media during an appearance with Zelenskyy, while local media reported air raid sirens in the city.
Kyiv regularly comes under cruise missile and drone attacks that have battered the city’s infrastructure
“As the world prepares to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, I am in Kyiv today to meet with President Zelenskyy and reaffirm our unwavering and unflagging commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity,” said Biden in a statement released by the White House.
“When Putin launched his invasion nearly one year ago, he thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided. He thought he could outlast us. But he was dead wrong,” said Biden.
This kind of high-risk visit to a war zone is extremely unusual for a US president. Ukraine’s contested air space and concerns that US jets protecting Biden’s trip might encounter Russian forces were extra security risks that had to be considered. First Lady Jill Biden visited Ukraine last May but stayed in Lviv near the border with Poland, which unlike Kyiv, has rarely been targeted by Russian strikes.
“The movement of a US president in a war zone would require a huge coordination of security between various nations,” a NATO official who is not authorised to speak to the media told VICE World News.
The NATO official said the visit would be seen as a show of both pressure and solidarity with Europe’s efforts to assist Ukraine’s war. The trip came as EU foreign ministers met in Brussels to discuss ongoing support for the effort, amid accusations that some members have been slow to give Ukraine appropriate military support.
Biden plans to give a speech in Warsaw on Tuesday to NATO allies, where he is expected to push for broad support for Ukraine’s military operations.
“Biden is here to show support for Europe but also remind them of the stakes involved as it becomes increasingly clear this will be a very long war,” said the official. “Europe needs to address its long-term military capabilities not just immediately in the weapons being sent to Ukraine but also developing the capability to continue the effort, while being able to protect themselves.”
The official said EU ministers would discuss shortfalls of heavy artillery ammunition – considered crucial to Ukraine’s military effort – with NATO confronting dwindling stocks as Ukrainian consumption far outstrips production.
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