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Biden makes surprise visit to Kyiv, meets Zelensky (UPDATES)
Editor's note: This is a breaking story. It is being updated as more details emerge.
U.S. President Joe Biden made an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Feb. 20, his first-ever visit to Ukraine as president.
In Kyiv, Biden is meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The two were filmed walking near the St. Michael Cathedral in central Kyiv on the morning of Feb. 20, heading towards a memorial wall honoring Ukrainian soldiers fallen in Russia's war against Ukraine since 2014. Later, Zelensky posted a photo with Biden, confirming the visit.
Around the time the two presidents were filmed walking in Kyiv, an air raid siren went on in all the regions of Ukraine, following a take-off of a Russian fighter jet in Belarus, just north of Ukraine.
The White House posted a statement by Biden, announcing more aid for Ukraine and sanctions against companies fueling Russia's war machine.
"(During the visit) 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," the statement reads. "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."
U.S. President Joe Biden (L) and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky talk during Biden's surprise visit in Kyiv on Feb. 20, 2023. (President's Office)
Biden pledged an extra $500 million in aid to the country, reports CNN. The assistance package will consist of more military equipment, such as javelins, howitzers, and artillery ammunition.
Biden praised the strength of Ukrainian resistance to the country during his visit to the presidential palace in Kyiv.
"One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands," Biden said.
The two leaders discussed “the coming months, in terms of the battlefield, and what capabilities Ukraine will need to succeed,” U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said at a joint press call after Biden’s visit.
When asked whether Biden and Zelensky talked about the provision of specific weapons, including F-16 fighter jets, Sullivan responded vaguely.
“I think the two presidents both laid out their perspectives on different capabilities that have been thrown around in the press, both recently and over several months. And I will leave it at that.”
Biden and Zelensky also discussed Ukraine’s energy, infrastructure, economic, and humanitarian needs as well as the upcoming UN General Assembly session on Ukraine, Ukraine’s Peace Formula, and its “efforts to rally international support for a just, sustainable and durable peace.”
According to Sullivan, American officials notified Russia about Biden's visit to Kyiv "some hours before his departure for de-confliction purposes."
At the press call, Sullivan refused to provide further details on the message and Russia's reaction to it.
Biden is visiting Kyiv on the day Ukraine marks the anniversary of the culmination of the EuroMaidan Revolution, a series of anti-government protests in 2013-2014 that ousted a corrupt pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych. Over 100 protesters were killed, many of them in a single day, on Feb. 20, 2014. They are known in Ukraine as the Heavenly Hundred.
Before, Zelensky met with Biden on Dec. 21 during a historic visit to Washington, D.C., the president's first trip abroad since February 2022.
"We are going to give Ukraine what it needs to succeed on the battlefield," Biden said during Zelensky's December visit.
After his Feb. 20 visit to Kyiv, Biden traveled by train to Poland, crossing the border at about 8 pm local time, CNN reported.
Biden will meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda to discuss bilateral cooperation and support for Ukraine. He will also talk to the leaders of the Bucharest Nine (B9), a group of Eastern European NATO Allies.