KYIV — US President Joe Biden has made a surprise visit to Kyiv — his first to Ukraine since Russia invaded almost a year ago. It comes as the anniversary of Russia’s invasion approaches on Feb. 24.
Biden said the United States would stand with Ukraine “for as long as it takes” and praised their “heroic” fighting. He also reaffirmed his country’s support for Ukraine, pledging more weapons for Kyiv and promising new sanctions for Russia.
During a press conference in Kyiv earlier, Biden said Russia had attempted to “wipe Ukraine off the map”. Speaking as air raid sirens went off in the capital and across Ukraine, he said that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war of conquest was “failing”.
Meanwhile, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky describes today’s talks with Joe Biden as “very fruitful” in a televised joint statement in Kyiv.
In a televised joint statement, flanked by Biden, Zelensky said that the “democratic world” has to “win this historic fight”.
“It’s the most important visit in the whole history of US-Ukraine relations,” Zelensky said, adding that it “underlines the results we have already achieved”.
He said Ukraine was fighting “for its freedom and freedom for all Europeans, for all people of the free world…
“It emphasizes how much we have already achieved and what historical results we can achieve together with the whole world, with Ukraine, with the United States, with the whole of Europe.
“Today our negotiations were very fruitful,” Zelensky said, adding that the results of this visit will surely be seen and have a reflection on the battlefield.
The US decision to give Abrams tanks to Ukraine earlier in January has already contributed to reinforcing Ukraine’s defense, Zelensky said, adding that he and Biden also talked about long-range weapons.
“I know there will be a very significant package of support to Ukraine… serving a clear signal that Russia’s aggression has no chance,” Zelensky said. “Ukraine is grateful to you, Mr. President” he told Biden.
Ahead of meetings with Polish President Andrzej Duda, his aide Marcin Przydacz said Biden’s visit to Kyiv shows the US is determined to continue to support Ukraine.
Przydacz said in a tweet he welcomes the US president’s pledge of additional military support because it brings “us significantly closer to peace”.
Biden is due to begin a three-day visit to Poland later Monday. Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels will discuss how to make sure Ukrainian forces have enough ammunition.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan also confirmed the presidential delegation did notify Russia about President Biden’s trip to Kyiv.
The trip had been in the works for a few months, but a “go” decision was made on Friday. The White House let the Russians know of the trip a few hours before departure on Sunday morning.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba praised the visit as the “victory for the Ukrainian people” and Ukrainian President Zelensky.
Writing on Facebook, Kuleba said the visit was “historic”, adding both Biden and Zelensky were pleased with their talks today.
“It [the visit] has been conducted in spite of everything for the sake of Ukraine’s victory and all the free world,” he said. Kuleba added, “It is a clear signal to the swamp—no-one is afraid of you!” — presumably a reference to Russia.
Defense and security expert at the University of Bath and former NATO analyst, Dr. Patrick Bury, has said the main takeaway from Biden’s meeting is the commitment from NATO allies that “we are in this for the long run”.
Speaking to BBC News, he said: “They are signaling to Putin that basically we are in this and are not going to back down and therefore you are going to have to question your fundamental assumptions about trying to outlast us in this war.”
Bury also spoke about Biden making a surprise visit Monday rather than on the one year anniversary on Feb. 24.
He said: “In terms of the timing, they probably didn’t want to send the president on the anniversary because of the increased risks of Russian bombardment that day.
“It would have been planned for a good while, these visits, they take a lot of security planning of course, and it was probably discussed or even mooted before when Zelensky visited the US back in December.” BBC