President Joe Biden made a surprise trip to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev to kick off the week that will mark the one-year anniversary of Russian troops' invasion of Ukraine to meet with President Zelensky for "extended discussions" and to show his administration's commitment to continuing support for Ukraine "for as long as it takes" with another $500 million aid package.
The U.S. President Joe Biden, alongside with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the first lady Olena Zelenska, during his unannounced visit to Ukraine, Kyiv, 20 February 2023.— UkraineWorld (@ukraine_world) February 20, 2023
📷 AP Photo / Evan Vucci, Pool pic.twitter.com/dVh6bnY5bR
Biden surfaced in Ukraine after National Security Council (NSC) Coordinator for Strategic Communication John Kirby said "no" on Friday when asked whether there were any plans for Biden to visit Ukraine during his trip to Poland — a denial Kirby repeated Sunday on MSNBC while Biden was already on his way to Ukraine.
The president's visit also comes as the Biden administration struggles to respond to a train derailment and chemical spill here at home in East Palestine, Ohio, amid other economic and domestic crises that have not received the same show of in-person support.
In a statement issued in Monday's early morning hours, President Biden said that, "[a]s the world prepares to mark the one-year 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."
"When Putin launched his invasion nearly one year ago, he thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided," the president said. "He thought he could outlast us. But he was dead wrong."
Over the last year, the United States has built a coalition of nations from the Atlantic to the Pacific to help defend Ukraine with unprecedented military, economic, and humanitarian support – and that support will endure.— President Biden (@POTUS) February 20, 2023
Biden's statement accompanying his unannounced visit to Ukraine continued:
Today, in Kyiv, I am meeting with President Zelenskyy and his team for an extended discussion on our support for Ukraine. I will announce another delivery of critical equipment, including artillery ammunition, anti-armor systems, and air surveillance radars to help protect the Ukrainian people from aerial bombardments. And I will share that later this week, we will announce additional sanctions against elites and companies that are trying to evade or backfill Russia’s war machine. Over the last year, the United States has built a coalition of nations from the Atlantic to the Pacific to help defend Ukraine with unprecedented military, economic, and humanitarian support – and that support will endure.
President Biden added that the rest of his previously announced plans in Poland would continue after his surprise visit to Ukraine "to meet President Duda and the leaders of our Eastern Flank Allies."
On Monday, Biden made a speech alongside Zelensky in which he announced "an additional half-billion dollars in U.S. assistance" to Ukraine and restated his commitment to continued support, according to the Associated Press.
The AP's dispatch noted that Biden "also got a short firsthand taste of the terror that Ukrainians have lived with for close to a year, as air raids sirens howled over the capital just as he and Zelenskyy were exiting the gold-domed St. Michael’s Cathedral, which they visited together" before the two leaders "laid a wreath and held a moment of silence at the Wall of Remembrance honoring Ukrainian soldiers killed since 2014."
President Biden is scheduled to speak in Warsaw on Tuesday. The last time he spoke from Poland about Russia's war in Ukraine, Biden declared that Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power" in an off-the-cuff moment, causing an international incident-level headache for his aides who scrambled to clarify that the United States was not endorsing regime change by force. We'll see how things go this time around.