To the sound of anti-aircraft sirens, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky received his US counterpart Joe Biden in Kiev, just days before the first anniversary of the war. This confirmed rumours that had been circulating on social media since early this morning about an important and "historic" visit to the Ukrainian capital. These speculations were based on streets completely closed to traffic and statements by senior Ukrainian officials referring to "high-ranking foreign guests".
President Biden is taking a walk in Kyiv during an active air raid alert. Wow! pic.twitter.com/YipkN25LXe— Saint Javelin (@saintjavelin) February 20, 2023
Biden's surprise visit to Kiev is intended to reaffirm America's "unwavering commitment" to Ukraine's democracy, sovereignty and territorial integrity. "When Putin launched his invasion nearly a year ago, he thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided. But he was dead wrong," Biden said in a statement issued by the White House shortly after his presence in the Ukrainian capital was confirmed.
The US president has announced a new $500 million assistance package for Ukraine that includes artillery munitions, anti-armour systems and air surveillance radars. Later this week, Washington will also impose new sanctions against Russian elites and companies linked to the military invasion of Ukraine.
‼️ [ ?? RUSSIE | ?? UKRAINE ]— (Little) Think Tank (@L_ThinkTank) February 20, 2023
? Joe Biden et Volodymyr Zelensky, à Kiev. pic.twitter.com/wvGpzaNE9D
During his meeting with Zelensky at the Mariinsky Palace, Biden sought to reassure Kiev about the numerous criticisms in the US about its support for Ukraine. "Despite the disagreements we have in Congress on some issues, there is significant agreement on assistance to Ukraine," he said. "It's not just about freedom in Ukraine, it's about democracy in general," he added.
As we approach the anniversary of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, I'm in Kyiv today to meet with President Zelenskyy and reaffirm our unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.— President Biden (@POTUS) February 20, 2023
As he did in the White House press release, Biden stressed to Zelensky that, nearly a year after the start of the war, "Kiev is standing." "Ukraine is standing. Democracy stands. Americans and the world stand with you," he declared. "Vladimir Putin's war of conquest is failing," stressed Biden, who also noted that the Russian leader was "wrong" to think the world would be divided by war. "The proof is here in this room. We stand together," he said.
However, Biden acknowledged that victory would take time, warning of "very difficult days, weeks and years". Even so, he stressed that "freedom is priceless", which is why Washington will support Kiev "for as long as it takes".
We must make this year a year of victory - Zelensky.— Maria Drutska ?? (@maria_drutska) February 20, 2023
Zelensky called the visit "an extremely important sign of support for all Ukrainians" and "the most important in the history of US-Ukrainian relations".
The Ukrainian leader thanked the Biden Administration, Congress and the American people for their significant support. Regarding the meeting, which Zelensky described as "fruitful", the Ukrainian president said that "it will be reflected on the battlefield".
Air raid sirens across Ukraine, including here in Kyiv. pic.twitter.com/JVhtn8zXGN— Philip Crowther (@PhilipinDC) February 20, 2023
Among the topics discussed by Biden and Zelensky were "long-range weapons and weapons that can still be supplied to Ukraine, even if they have not been supplied before", reports AP. Kiev has long been asking its Western allies to supply fighter jets to confront Russian troops. Although no nation has yet confirmed this, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, for example, has not ruled it out.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, like the Ukrainian people, has welcomed Biden's important and historic visit to Ukraine. "This visit is the victory of the Ukrainian people and President Zelensky," stressed Kuleba, who also wanted to send a message to Putin. "No one is afraid of you," he said, addressing Putin.
??Welcome back to Kyiv, Mr. President!— Ambassador Bridget A. Brink (@USAmbKyiv) February 20, 2023
??З поверненням до Києва, пане Президенте! pic.twitter.com/NnBCB33V8N
In addition to the meeting at the Mariinsky Palace, Biden visited St Michael's Cathedral with Zelensky and together they laid a wreath at the Wall of Remembrance for the fallen heroes of the war since 2014.
A Stars and Stripes wreath at Ukraine’s war memory wall in Kyiv - Joe Biden was here pic.twitter.com/PbviAT2a24— Jeremy Bowen (@BowenBBC) February 20, 2023
As reported by The New York Times, Biden arrived in Kiev after a train ride from the border with Poland, which he was scheduled to visit on Tuesday morning, according to a schedule issued by the White House. "The trip to the Ukrainian capital was made covertly due to security concerns," it said. "Biden took off from Washington unannounced," the US newspaper notes.
Someone who needs a lot of security appears to be visiting Kyiv..... https://t.co/H9UVvZ5oTk— Anne Applebaum (@anneapplebaum) February 20, 2023
Meanwhile, according to Jim La Porta of Rolling Stone magazine, senior US officials presented Biden with a "wide variety of plans" for his trip to Ukraine, including a meeting with Zelensky on the Polish border or in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. However, Biden insisted that he should visit the capital, a symbol of resistance to the Russian invasion during the early days of the war.
Coordinator America: José Antonio Sierra