Biden In Poland After Surprise Visit To Kyiv, Unveils New Military Aid
By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — U.S. President Joe Biden has left Kyiv and arrived in Poland after spending more than five hours in the Ukrainian capital in a visit to underscore Washington’s supportfor Ukraine just days ahead of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of its neighbor, a move that has rattled global security.
Biden met his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, at the Mariyinskiy Palace in the center of the Ukrainian capital on February 20 and promised $500 million in new arms deliveries at a time when Western allies are looking to project a united front against Russia, which is expected to launch a new offensive in the war in the coming weeks.
“One year later, Kyiv stands,” Biden said as he spoke from a podium decorated with the U.S. and Ukrainian flags. “And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands. The Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you.”
In an earlier statement announcing the visit, Biden said he was making the unannounced visit to reaffirm Washington’s “unwavering and unflagging commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.”
“[Russian President Vladimir Putin] is counting on us not sticking together…. He thought he could outlast us. I don’t think he’s thinking that right now. God knows what he’s thinking, but I don’t think he’s thinking that. But he’s just been plain wrong. Plain wrong,” Biden added.
Zelenskiy called the visit an “extremely important sign of support for all Ukrainians” as they near the one-year anniversary of the invasion on February 24.
“Right now, in Ukraine, the destiny of the international order…is being decided,” Zelenskiy said through an interpreter to Biden.
On the ground, the effects of Biden’s visit to a population that has had to endure a year of attacks were palpable.
Yulia Payevska, a 54-year-old Ukrainian paramedic and founder of a volunteer ambulance corps called Taira’s Angels, said the U.S. president’s visit to St. Michael’s Cathedral in Kyiv was key because it “showed respect for our struggle and lost ones.”
It also had broader implications, she said.
“I think this is, first of all, a demonstration to the Russians that nobody is afraid of them; the free world has finally realized that they are not as scary as they would like it to believe,” she said.
Olena Shkarinska, a 45-year-old housewife in Kyiv said the U.S. president’s visit “shows that his [Biden’s] support is serious.”
Russian officials downplayed the Biden visit — with Vladimir Rogov, a Moscow-installed official in the occupied Zaporizhzhya region, saying that Zelenskiy “looked like a servant next to Biden.”
The German government called the visit a “good signal,” while Poland said it welcomed it as an indication of Washington’s commitment to Kyiv in its war against Russia.
Biden stopped in Kyiv as he traveled from the United States to neighboring Poland for a visit.
Late on February 20 at the railway station in the southern Polish town of Przemysl, Reuters journalists reported spotting the arrival of Biden’s train and rows of waiting vehicles, some with U.S. license plates.
Private broadcaster TVN24 showed footage shortly afterward showing Biden getting off the train, followed by the motorcade leaving the rail station.
Speculation that Biden would make such a stop had been rampant, but many thought that it wouldn’t happen given that neither Ukraine nor its allies have control over the airspace where Biden needed to fly.
Details of how Biden arrived were very limited, but AP quoted the White House as saying that “basic communication with the Russians occurred to ensure deconfliction” shortly before Biden’s visit in an effort to avoid any miscalculation that could bring the two countries into direct conflict.
The New York Times reported that the U.S. president took a 10-hour train ride to Kyiv from Poland.
During his Kyiv visit, Biden announced another delivery of $500 million worth of “critical equipment” to Ukraine, including artillery ammunition, anti-armor systems, and air surveillance radars to help protect Ukrainians from aerial bombardments.
The Pentagon later released details of the new aid package.
Later this week, Biden said Washington would announce additional sanctions against elites and companies “that are trying to evade or backfill Russia’s war machine.”
The visit came as Russian forces continue to pound military positions and civilian settlements in eastern and southern Ukraine, despite what Zelenskiy called “extraordinarily significant” Russian losses in key disputed areas of the Donetsk region.
Russia carried out 10 missile strikes and 25 air strikes in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions as well as the southern Zaporizhzhya region, the General Staff of the Ukrainian military said in its daily report, adding that 62 attacks from multiple rocket launchers were also registered along the front line.
“The enemy continues to focus its main efforts on conducting offensive actions in the Kupyansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiyivka, and Shakhtar directions,” it said.
The General Staff said civilians were wounded and killed in the shelling, without offering details. It warned that the threat of Russian strikes remained high across Ukraine.