US President Joe Biden arrived on a surprise visit to Ukraine on Monday (20 February), a major show of support ahead of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion, preceded by Moscow’s launching of a massive assault across frontlines in the east.
“Joseph Biden, welcome to Kyiv! Your visit is an extremely important sign of support for all Ukrainians,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed on Telegram.
In his own post on Twitter, Biden said: “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.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy invited US President Joe Biden to visit Kyiv months ago, saying he believed it was important for the US leader to see the situation up close.
Zelenskyy travelled to Washington in December to meet Biden and speak to a joint session of US Congress, which constituted his first trip outside Ukraine since the war began.
Air raid sirens blared across the Ukrainian capital as Biden visited Kyiv, but there were no reports of Russian missiles or air strikes, with some social media channels indicating Russian fighter jet activity on the Belarus border.
Zelenskyy said he and Biden discussed long-range weapons during the visit, while the White House said Biden would announce more sanctions on Russia and military support for Ukraine.
Biden has said he visited Kyiv to reaffirm the United States “unwavering” support for Ukraine, announcing new military aid and a fresh swath of sanctions on the historic trip.
“As the world prepares to mark the first 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,” Biden said 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,” Biden said.
He confirmed another donation of US military equipment and said that later this week, his government “would announce additional sanctions against elites and companies that are trying to evade or backfill Russia’s war machine.”
Biden arrived in the Ukrainian capital a day before President Vladimir Putin was due to make a major address, expected to set out Russia’s aims for the second year of the invasion he launched on 24 February last year.
He is also set to visit Poland later this week as he marks the anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
The anniversary has taken on more than symbolic significance, becoming what the West views as motivation for the war’s deadliest phase as Moscow hurls thousands of conscripts and mercenaries towards a spring offensive.