Biden makes surprise visit to Kyiv in show of support for Ukraine President Zelensky ahead of war anniversary

US President Joe Biden (L) walks next to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) past a religious mural at the St. Michaels Golden-Domed Cathedral, as he arrives for a visit in Kyiv on Feb. 20, 2023.
Dimitar Dilkoff—AFP/Getty Images

US President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv and met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who he has pledged to support in fighting off Russia’s invasion as the war nears the one-year mark.

Biden, who was originally slated to visit neighboring Poland this week, suddenly appeared in the Ukrainian capital on Monday as reports of police sealing off main streets in the city began to swell on local social media.

While Biden was still in Kyiv, a massive air raid alarm went off there and elsewhere across the country — an every-day occurrence in the war-torn nation. There were no immediate reports of any missile launches or explosions.

“When Putin launched his invasion nearly one year ago, he thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided,” Biden said on Twitter. “He thought he could outlast us. But he was dead wrong.”

President Biden in Kyiv.— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) February 20, 2023

The Ukraine part of Biden’s trip was planned in secret and only revealed to reporters upon arrival. White House aides for the past week insisted that no such visit was planned, despite Biden’s proximity to the country.

This the the first time the US president has traveled to the country since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. He is one of the last major allies to do so and many of Biden’s G-7 counterparts have already visited Kyiv over the past year. The last US president to visit Ukraine was George W. Bush in 2008.

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