March 4. 2024. 7:08

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Biden arrives in Kyiv on surprise visit ahead of war anniversary

US President Joe Biden arrived on a surprise visit to Ukraine on Monday (20 February), a major show of support ahead of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion, promising new military aid for Ukraine worth $500 million.

“Joseph Biden, welcome to Kyiv! Your visit is an extremely important sign of support for all Ukrainians,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed on Telegram.

In his own post on Twitter, Biden said: “As we approach the anniversary of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, I’m in Kyiv today to meet with President Zelenskyy and reaffirm our unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy invited US President Joe Biden to visit Kyiv months ago, saying he believed it was important for the US leader to see the situation up close.

Zelenskyy travelled to Washington in December to meet Biden and speak to a joint session of US Congress, which constituted his first trip outside Ukraine since the war began.

Air raid sirens blared across the Ukrainian capital as Biden visited Kyiv, but there were no reports of Russian missiles or air strikes, with some social media channels indicating Russian fighter jet activity on the Belarus border.

Zelenskyy said he and Biden discussed long-range weapons during the visit, while the White House said Biden would announce more sanctions on Russia and military support for Ukraine.

Biden has said he visited Kyiv to reaffirm the United States “unwavering” support for Ukraine, announcing new military aid and a fresh swath of sanctions on the historic trip.

The military aid package will include artillery ammunition, anti-armour systems and air surveillance radars “to help protect the Ukrainian people from aerial bombardments,” he said.

Biden appeared to make no mention of fighter jets, which Ukraine has been seeking from Western allies to help it push back the Russian forces.

“Freedom is priceless. It is worth fighting for as long as it takes. And that’s how long we’re going to be with you, Mr. President. As long as it takes,” Biden told Zelenskyy after talks.

Presidents @POTUS and @ZelenskyyUa are headed to honor the memory of the Heroes from the Heavenly Hundred – who died nine years ago for Ukrainian freedom and democracy.

The day when it all began.

— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) February 20, 2023

“As the world prepares to mark the first 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,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House.

“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,” Biden said.

He confirmed another donation of US military equipment and said that later this week, his government “would announce additional sanctions against elites and companies that are trying to evade or backfill Russia’s war machine.”

Describing the trip as “historic”, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said both Biden and Zelenskyy were pleased with their talks and that the visit sent a message of resolve to Russia, which he called “the swamp”.

“This visit is the victory of the Ukrainian people and President Zelenskyy… It is a clear signal to the swamp – no one is afraid of you!” he said.

Biden arrived in the Ukrainian capital a day before President Vladimir Putin was due to make a major address, expected to set out Russia’s aims for the second year of the invasion he launched on 24 February last year.

He is also set to visit Poland later this week as he marks the anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

The anniversary has taken on more than symbolic significance, becoming what the West views as motivation for the war’s deadliest phase as Moscow hurls thousands of conscripts and mercenaries towards a spring offensive.