President Joe Biden slipped into Kyiv on Monday for the first time since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago, demonstrating in dramatic personal fashion his commitment to the country and its struggle as the war enters an uncertain new phase.
The highly secretive visit – which took place as air raid sirens could be heard ringing out around Kyiv while Biden walked alongside President Volodymyr Zelensky around the gold-domed St. Michael’s Cathedral – comes at a critical moment in the 12-month conflict, with Russia preparing for an expected spring offensive and Ukraine hoping to soon retake territory.
Biden announced a half-billion dollars in new assistance, saying the package would include more military equipment, such as artillery ammunition, more javelins and Howitzers. And he said new sanctions would be imposed on Moscow later this week.
“One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands,” Biden said.
The United States and other Western nations have been rushing arms, tanks and ammunition to Ukraine in the hopes of changing the trajectory of the war. By visiting in person, Biden is offering a singular image of American support for Zelensky, who has spent the past year attempting to rally the world behind his nation and appealing for greater levels of assistance.
Biden arrived in Kyiv at 8 a.m. local time after a lengthy, covert journey from Washington and arrived to the Mariinsky Palace half-an-hour later. He departed Kyiv in the early afternoon.
“Thank you for coming,” Zelensky said, shaking Biden’s hand.
US officials have privately voiced hope the massive influx of weaponry to Ukraine – which includes new vehicles, longer-range missiles and Patriot air defense systems – can help Ukraine prevail on the battlefield and put Zelensky in a stronger position to negotiate an end to the war.
But it remains unclear what parameters Zelensky might be willing to accept in any peace negotiations, and the US has steadfastly refused to define what a settlement may look like beyond stating it will be up to Zelensky to decide.