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Biden makes surprise trip to Kyiv before war anniversary

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KYIV: US President Joe Biden on Monday made a trip to Kyiv organised in strict secrecy, promising $500 million in fresh arms deliveries and “unwavering” American support ahead of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

Air raid sirens rang out across the capital at one point as Biden walked alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during what was the US president’s first visit to the country since Russian troops invaded on Feb 24, 2022.

“One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands,” Biden said, speaking alongside Zelensky at the Ukrainian president’s official residence, the Mariinsky Palace.

“I thought it was critical that there not be any doubt, none whatsoever, about US support for Ukraine in the war,” he continued.

Promises $500m in fresh arms deliveries, ‘unwavering’ American support

Russian President Vladimir “Putin thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided.

He thought he could outlast us.

He’s just been plain wrong,”

Biden said, adding: “Putin’s war of conquest is failing.”

The visit was organised in conditions of strict secrecy. Biden left Andrews Air Force in the early hours of Sunday. After handing over their devices, journalists were made aware of his presence on Air Force One just 15 minutes before the plane took off.

Artillery, howitzers, Javelins

The White House did not report how he eventually reached Ukraine but other foreign leaders have travelled to Kyiv by train from Poland. It was the first visit by a US president to Ukraine since 2008.

During the trip, Biden promised an additional $500m (468m euros) in arms deliveries for Ukraine, mentioning in particular artillery ammunition, howitzers and Javelin anti-tank missiles.

Ukraine is estimated to be burning through thousands more shells each month than the EU defence industry is currently able to produce.

The European Union is weighing up plans to try to speed up its production and delivery of much-needed ammunition to help Kyiv’s fight.

Zelensky said he and Biden also discussed the possibility of supplying “long range weapons” to Ukraine, a long-standing request from Kyiv that has been met with reticence in Washington where there is concern that they could be used to strike deep inside Russian territory.

Zelensky hailed the visit as a key sign of support. “This conversation brings us closer to victory,” he said, calling the visit and the promise of additional US arms supplies “an unequivocal signal that Russian attempts to win will have no chance”.

After their talks, Biden and Zelensky visited St Michael’s Gold-Domed Cathedral, which has long been a symbol of Ukrainian resistance, and the air raid sirens were heard across the city as the two leaders left the church.

Biden and Zelensky then walked over and together laid a wreath at the Wall of Remembrance for the fallen heroes of the Russian-Ukrainian war, as a military salute played, and the two presidents stared down in silence for a few moments.

Biden later visited the US embassy in Kyiv before leaving the capital, according to a White House pool report.

He is expected to arrive in Poland on Tuesday where he is due to give a major speech in Warsaw — hours after a state of the nation address by Putin in Moscow that will be largely about the conflict in Ukraine.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2023


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