President Joe Biden made an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Monday, Feb. 20, 2023, to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a gesture of solidarity that comes days before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of the country, Evan Vucci, John Leicester, Aamer Madhani and Zeke Miller reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Photo Insert: “One year later, Kyiv stands,” Biden said, jamming his finger for emphasis on his podium decorated with the US and Ukrainian flags.
Speaking alongside Zelenskyy at Mariinsky Palace, Biden recalled the fears nearly a year ago that Russia’s invasion forces might quickly take the Ukrainian capital.
“One year later, Kyiv stands,” Biden said, jamming his finger for emphasis on his podium decorated with the US and Ukrainian flags. “And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands. The Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you.”
The Ukraine visit comes at a crucial moment in the war as Biden looks to keep allies unified in their support for Ukraine as the war is expected to intensify with both sides preparing for spring offensives.
Zelenskyy is pressing allies to speed up delivery of pledged weapon systems and is calling on the West to deliver fighter jets to Ukraine. The visit surprised Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been hunkered at his Moscow bunker, if not in his Sochi villa or other havens in Siberia.
In Kyiv, Biden announced an additional $500 million in US assistance — on top of the more than $50 billion already provided — including shells for howitzers, anti-tank missiles, air surveillance radars and other aid but no new advanced weaponry.
Zelenskyy said he and Biden spoke about “long-range weapons and the weapons that may still be supplied to Ukraine even though it wasn’t supplied before.”
Biden also got a short firsthand taste of the terror that Ukrainians have lived with for close to a year, as air raids sirens howled over the capital just as he and Zelenskyy were exiting the gold-domed St. Michael’s Cathedral, which they visited together.
Looking solemn, they continued unperturbed as they laid a wreath and held a moment of silence at the Wall of Remembrance honoring Ukrainian soldiers killed since 2014.
Biden’s mission with his visit to Kyiv, which comes ahead of a scheduled trip to Warsaw, Poland, is to underscore that the United States is prepared to stick with Ukraine “as long as it takes” to repel Russian forces even as public opinion polling suggests that U.S. and allied support for providing weaponry and direct economic assistance has started to soften.
For Zelenskyy, the symbolism of having the US president stand side by side with him on Ukrainian land as the anniversary nears is no small thing as he prods the US and European allies to provide more advanced weaponry and to step up the pace of delivery.
“I thought it was critical that there not be any doubt, none whatsoever, about US support for Ukraine in the war,” Biden said.
Biden’s visit marked an act of defiance against Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had hoped his military would swiftly overrun Kyiv within days. Biden recalled speaking with Zelenskyy on the night of the invasion, saying “That dark night one year ago, the world was literally at the time bracing for the fall of Kyiv. Perhaps even the end of Ukraine.”
A year later, the Ukrainian capital remains firmly in Ukrainian control, and a semblance of normalcy has returned to the city as the fighting has concentrated in the country’s east, punctuated by cruise missile and drone attacks against military and civilian infrastructure.