KYIV: United States President Joe Biden has arrived in Kyiv on an unannounced visit days before the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Biden’s visit on Monday was the first to Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into the neighboring country on February 24, 2022.
Biden said he was in Kyiv to meet Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy “and reaffirm our unwavering and unflagging commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity”, according to a White House statement.
“When Putin launched his invasion nearly one year ago, he thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided. He thought he could outlast us but he was dead wrong,” the statement quoted Biden as saying.
“Later this week, we will announce additional sanctions against elites and companies that are trying to evade or backfill Russia’s war machine,” the statement added.
Biden said the US would provide Ukraine with additional assistance worth $500m that will include artillery ammunition, anti-armour systems and air surveillance radars.
The visit came as a nationwide air raid alert was sounded in Ukraine, including Kyiv.
In December 2022, Zelenskyy travelled to Washington, DC and address the US Congress, in his first trip abroad since the war began.
Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram that Biden’s visit was an “extremely important sign of support for all Ukrainians”.
The Ukraine leader said he and Biden spoke about “long range weapons and the weapons that may still be supplied to Ukraine even though it wasn’t supplied before.” However, he did not detail any new commitments.
Journalist Hoda Abdel Hamid reporting from Kyiv said the news of the US president arriving in Kyiv will be “very well received” by Ukrainians.
“This is a very difficult time. It seems from the news lines things maybe a bit quieter overall in the country with the battle more or less confined in the Donbass region but people are anxious,” she said.
“President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to give a speech tomorrow … People here are talking about a new offensive … a new buildup on the border in Russia, Belarus. So, certainly having the (US) president here pledging support, pledging weapons will make the Ukrainians feel that they can go ahead with this.”
The visit gives Biden an opportunity to get a firsthand look at the devastation the Russian invasion has caused on Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainian troops and civilians have been killed in the past year while millions have fled the fighting into neighboring countries such as Poland and other parts of Europe.
Meanwhile, Sergei Markov, a Russian political scientist and former spokesman of President Vladimir Putin, claimed that Moscow had guaranteed Biden’s safety during the trip.
“Joe Biden came to Kyiv only with personal guarantee for security from Vladimir Putin, that there will be no rocket and aviation strikes … during the visit.” media was unable to verify his claim.
Markov added the timing of the trip was significant, as it comes before Putin is set to deliver a national address and ahead of the first anniversary of the invasion on Friday.
He argued that Biden had a lot to gain from the visit, in terms of domestic politics.
“Leaders inside the (US) Democratic Party believe he’s not physically and mentally able” to carry out presidential duties, Markov said, adding that the trip was a “big victory” for Biden against his political opponents. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)