President Joe Biden slipped into Kyiv on Monday for the first time since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago, demonstrating in dramatic personal fashion his commitment to the country and its struggle as the war enters an uncertain new phase.
The highly secretive visit – which took place as air raid sirens could be heard ringing out around Kyiv while Biden walked alongside President Volodymyr Zelensky around the gold-domed St. Michael’s Cathedral – comes at a critical moment in the 12-month conflict, with Russia preparing for an expected spring offensive and Ukraine hoping to soon retake territory.
Biden announced a half-billion dollars in new assistance, saying the package would include more military equipment, such as artillery ammunition, more javelins and Howitzers. And he said new sanctions would be imposed on Moscow later this week, CNN reports.
“One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands,” Biden said.
The United States and other Western nations have been rushing arms, tanks and ammunition to Ukraine in the hopes of changing the trajectory of the war. By visiting in person, Biden is offering a singular image of American support for Zelensky, who has spent the past year attempting to rally the world behind his nation and appealing for greater levels of assistance.
Biden arrived in Kyiv at 8 a.m. local time after a lengthy, covert journey from Washington and arrived at the Mariinsky Palace half an hour later. He departed Kyiv in the early afternoon.
“Thank you for coming,” Zelensky said, shaking Biden’s hand.
Biden’s visit made for a highly symbolic moment, coming a day ahead of a planned speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin marking the anniversary of the war. Speaking from Kyiv, Biden declared Putin’s “war of conquest is failing.”
“Putin thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided,” Biden said, standing alongside Zelensky. “He thought he could outlast us. I don’t think he’s thinking that right now.”
“He’s just been plain wrong,” Biden said of Putin. “One year later, the evidence is right here in this room. We stand here together.”
During their talks inside the presidential palace, Biden laid out his rationale for visiting the Ukrainian capital as the war enters a second year.
“I thought it was critical that there not be any doubt, none whatsoever, about US support for Ukraine in the war,” Biden said.
“The Ukrainian people have stepped up in a way that few people ever have in the past,” he added.
Biden emphasized there was broad, bipartisan support in Washington for the Ukrainian cause.
“For all the disagreement we have in our Congress on some issues, there is significant agreement on support for Ukraine,” he said.
“It’s not just about freedom in Ukraine. … It’s about freedom of democracy at large,” he said.