On an unannounced trip on Monday February 20th, United States President Joe Biden arrived in Kyiv for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and to further demonstrate support for Ukraine with the one year anniversary of the Russian invasion of 2022 only four days away. A date which some analysts believe Putin will mark with a show of force as he has shown affinity for anniversaries in the past.
The White House told reporters they’d been planning this trip to Ukraine for months, coming as Russia has pushed it’s forces in the East in a brutal and costly effort to break through the Donbas and take Bakhmut in the Donetsk region. U.S officials even reportedly gave the Russian government a head’s up for de-escalation purposes.
Arriving in Saint Michael’s Square, Biden paid respect to fallen Ukrainian soldiers at an immense memorial wall which stretches across the square and around the side of the golden capped cathedral. As Biden arrived and spoke, air raid sirens punctuated the atmosphere in central Kyiv as they blared out warnings of Russian strikes during his visit. Biden made note that he had visited Ukraine six times before as vice-president and “knew he would be back”. He promised further support for economic, humanitarian, and military efforts in Ukraine, as well harsher sanctions against Russian “elites and companies”. Included in this aid was an additional $500 million weapons pledge to Ukraine to strengthen its capabilities as it defends from Russian human wave attacks as well as artillery and missile onslaughts. Inside the half billion package is reportedly refills for HIMARS ammo, Javelin systems, and more. Symbolically, the same square outside the cathedral has been used as a display for destroyed and burned out Russian vehicles in the heart of Kyiv for civilians and visitors to climb over and explore.
Biden made this statement on his trip:
“As 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. He thought he could outlast us. But he was dead wrong.
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.
I also look forward to traveling on to Poland to meet President Duda and the leaders of our Eastern Flank Allies, as well as deliver remarks on how the United States will continue to rally the world to support the people of Ukraine and the core values of human rights and dignity in the UN Charter that unite us worldwide.”
Biden left Kyiv by early afternoon (local time) per BBC. He is reportedly scheduled for diplomatic talks in neighboring Poland on Tuesday. A few Republican politicians in the United States complained online about the visit on their social media accounts.
In Kyiv, reactions were positive to Biden’s arrival and show of support, Per BBC: “Lawyer Roksoliana Gera told us she was “really surprised” when she crossed the street and caught a glimpse of Joe Biden.
“I’m so grateful for his support. It means so much to us,” she says. “I appreciate his courage, that he took on this challenge and came to show the support of the American nation.”
Roksoliana said she was particularly grateful that he had chosen today – the Day of the Heavenly Hundred Heroes – to visit. The day commemorates the more than 100 people killed nine years ago when the government of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown in what’s known as the Revolution of Dignity.
“On this day, when we are trying to remember all the defenders of Ukrainian liberty in 2014, it’s a good sign for us,” she says. “It’s such a historical day,” she says of Biden’s visit.
Continued per BBC: “We’ve just been speaking to 74-year-old Olha Plaksa and her granddaughter Anastasia. The pair fled their home in Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine, and dream of one day returning.
They say they have “lost everything” because of the war, and want Ukraine to be given “more support so we can rebuild”. When asked about the significance of the US president’s visit today, Olha says: “We think it’s for the best. “The war should be stopped.””
“Dmytro Yakovets, 26, says the visit is “very important… When a leader of a nation comes, it shows the government supports us and that the people of that country support us,” he says. “It also helps Ukrainians see that we’re not alone in this war and that such a powerful player in the international arena – as the US is – is supporting us.” Dmytro adds he thinks the visit has brought Ukraine “closer to victory”.