US President Joseph Biden’s surprise 23-hour visit to Ukraine on Monday, Feb. 20, 2023, was the first time in modern history that a US leader visited a war zone outside US military control — a feat the White House said carried some risk even though Moscow was given a heads-up, Evan Vucci, John Leicester and Zeke Miller reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Photo Insert: The US President made multiple stops around town — ferried about in a white SUV rather than the presidential limousine — without any announcement to the Ukrainian public that he was there.
Over the next five hours, the president made multiple stops around town — ferried about in a white SUV rather than the presidential limousine — without any announcement to the Ukrainian public that he was there.
But all that activity attracted enough attention that word of his presence leaked out well before he could get back to Poland, which was the original plan. Aides at the White House were surprised the secret held as long as it did.
But Russia knew what the Ukrainian public did not. US officials had given Moscow notice of Biden's trip.
The president had been itching since last year to join the parade of other Western officials who have visited Kyiv to pledge support standing shoulder to shoulder with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the capital.
Biden's planned trip to Warsaw, Poland, and the Presidents' Day holiday provided an obvious opening to tack on a stop in Kyiv.
A small group of senior officials at the White House and across US national security agencies set about working in secret for months to make it happen, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday.
Biden only gave the final sign-off Friday. Sullivan said the trip “required a security, operational, and logistical effort from professionals across the US government to take what was an inherently risky undertaking and make it a manageable risk.”