Surprise and joy in Kyiv at mystery guest Biden’s timely visit

Their sentiments were echoed by officials in Kyiv, who lauded Biden’s trip at a pivotal moment in the war.

“Your visit is an extremely important sign of support for all Ukrainians,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on his Telegram channel.

The two leaders embraced before heading out for a walk punctuated by air raid sirens that are all-too familiar for the city’s regular occupants. Still, a year ago many from Washington to Warsaw feared that by now Kyiv might be in the grip of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“One year later, Kyiv stands and Ukraine stands,” Biden said. “Democracy stands.”

He came bearing news of more military aid, too, announcing a range of new assistance for Ukraine as well as additional sanctions on Russian companies.

Andrii Yermak, head of Zelenskyy’s office, hailed the visit as historic, but added that it was also “strategic.”

“A lot of issues are being resolved and those that have been pending will be expedited,” he said in a Telegram post. Yermak later shared a picture of a plaque installed to mark Biden’s visit in the Walk of the Brave in Kyiv’s Constitution Square, which honors leaders who have supported Ukraine since the invasion.

‘A surprise is being prepared’

Kyiv has had no shortage of visiting foreign dignitaries in recent months, including a European Union chief, two British prime ministers, French President Emmanuel Macron and other senior U.S. officials.

But Biden’s visit is arguably the most significant of all — a morale-boosting gesture after a grinding year of war, just as Russia launches a new push on the battlefield and some Western powers show signs they may be tempted to nudge Kyiv toward a peace deal.

The president had been due to embark on a scheduled trip to Europe to show solidarity with Ukraine and its neighboring countries, many of whom have long raised fears about Russia’s militant imperialism.

But the five-hour stop in Kyiv was organized in the strictest secrecy.

The White House had denied any plans for the president to visit Ukraine, a risky venture given the ongoing conflict — though officials later confirmed that Russia had been notified ahead of time “for deconfliction purposes.” Few others were.

Instead the apparent presence of U.S. military aircraft in the area, videos showing a motorcade driving through restricted streets and news of a trip canceled at the last minute by Ukraine’s foreign minister stoked theories about what might be afoot.

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