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KIEV, Ukraine — President Biden paid a dramatic, unannounced visit to Kiev on Monday to demonstrate strong American support for Ukraine just four days before the anniversary of Russia’s all-out invasion.
The secret, high-risk visit to Ukraine’s historic capital — where air raid sirens wailed as Biden prowled the streets — signals the continued commitment of the United States, the biggest financial and military backer of Ukraine’s efforts to repel Russian invaders from its territory.
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Biden was spotted with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in front of the gold-domed St. Michael’s Monastery just before noon local time. His visit ended an hour-long security lockdown as authorities blocked car traffic and even pedestrians from certain streets.
Biden has insisted the United States will continue to support Ukraine “for as long as necessary,” despite waning support from the American public and no near-term prospects for peace talks to end the conflict.
The Biden administration has provided about $30 billion in security aid since President Vladimir Putin dispatched Russian forces to Ukraine on February 24, 2022, sparking the largest ground war in Europe since World War II – one that has left his country and the Ukraine has cost hundreds of thousands of victims.
As Russians advance near Bakhmut, Ukrainians dig fallback defences
Under Biden’s leadership, the United States and its NATO allies have gradually expanded the promised arsenal of heavy tanks.
While other heads of state visited Kyiv last year to meet with Zelenskyy and tour the war-torn city, security concerns and fears over the possibility of a conflict between the world’s two largest nuclear powers have kept Biden away, sending senior aides to his place . First Lady Jill Biden paid a surprise visit to western Ukraine on Mother’s Day in May.
In a White House statement, Biden said his visit was intended to reaffirm American support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which Russia has violated since 2014, when Putin annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and launched support for a separatist campaign in the eastern Donbass region .
“When Putin launched his invasion almost a year ago, he thought Ukraine was weak and the West divided. He thought he could outlive us,” Biden said. “But he was absolutely wrong.”
The visit was an important boost for Zelenskyy as he seeks to push Ukrainian forces to retake Russian-held territories and asks his country’s partners for additional military support, including fighter jets. US officials have so far refused to provide planes to Ukraine.
Thousands of civilians fled from the Ukrainian front. These people returned.
“Joseph Biden, welcome to Kiev!” Zelensky said in a post on his Telegram feed. “Your visit is an extremely important sign of support for all Ukrainians.”
Biden’s trip was secret and even more secure than other high-level visits. Biden was due to depart from Washington Monday night on an announced visit to Poland, but he actually left Washington around 4 a.m. Sunday, according to a small group of reporters who had traveled to Kiev with Biden.
Journalists accompanying Biden reported that they agreed to withhold real-time details of the president’s movements until his departure, including how he arrived in the Ukrainian capital. The country’s airspace was closed last year.
Viser and Woodson reported from Warsaw.
War in Ukraine: What you need to know
The newest: Fighting in eastern Ukraine continues while Russian forces make slight progress in their attempt to encircle the town of Bakhmut. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked Western allies for fighter jets as Russia launches a spring offensive. Read the latest here.
The fight: Russia has been targeting Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure with rocket and drone attacks since October, causing frequent power, heating and water cuts in the country. Despite fierce fighting, neither side has made significant gains for months. Western allies agreed on a new wave of sophisticated weaponry, including Leopard tanks, in hopes it could change the balance of the battlefield.
A war year: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war has sparked a historic exodus of his own people, with data showing at least 500,000 and perhaps nearly 1 million have fled Russia since the conflict in Ukraine began. Despite this and extensive sanctions, the Russian economy has remained more resilient than many expected. However, there are signs that Putin’s luck is running out.
Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground since the war began – here is some of their most impressive work.
How can you help: Here are ways people in the United States can support the people of Ukraine, and what people around the world have donated.
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