President Biden took a nearly 10-hour train ride from the border of Poland to show his administration’s “unwavering support” nearly a year into Russia’s invasion.
President Biden made a surprise trip to the embattled capital of Ukraine on Monday, traveling under a cloak of secrecy into a war zone to demonstrate what he called America’s “unwavering support” of the effort to beat back Russian forces nearly a year after they invaded the country.
Mr. Biden arrived unannounced early Monday morning to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, and the two stepped out into the streets of Kyiv even as an air-raid siren sounded, a dramatic moment captured on video that underscored the investment the United States has made in Ukraine’s independence.
“One year later, Kyiv stands,” Mr. Biden declared at Mr. Zelensky’s side in Mariinsky Palace, the gilded ceremonial home of the Ukrainian president. “And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands.”
“Thank you so much for coming, Mr. President, at a huge moment for Ukraine,” Mr. Zelensky said.
Mr. Biden promised to release another $500 million in military aid in coming days, mentioning artillery ammunition, Javelin missiles and Howitzers, but he did not talk about the advanced arms that Ukraine has sought. Mr. Zelensky told reporters that he and the president spoke about “long range weapons and the weapons that may still be supplied to Ukraine even though it wasn’t supplied before.”
Mr. Biden joined Mr. Zelensky for a visit to St. Michael’s monastery in downtown Kyiv, where the sun glittered off the golden domes as the air-raid alarm wailed. Trailing two soldiers bearing a wreath, the two leaders walked along the Wall of Remembrance, where portraits are on display of more than 4,500 soldiers who have died since Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014 and first fomented a rebellion in eastern Ukraine.
The air-raid alarm had stopped by the time Mr. Biden got back into his motorcade and departed the monastery. The alarms sound almost daily in Kyiv, but the blare of the siren added to the bristling tension of the moment. Ukrainian officials have been warning that Russia was planning a large-scale missile bombardment to be timed to the one-year anniversary of the war.
The alarm on Monday morning was triggered by a Russian MIG fighter jet taking off in Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north. A missile from a MIG fired from Belarus can hit a target in Kyiv in under 20 minutes.
Mr. Biden had already been scheduled to arrive in Warsaw on Tuesday morning for a two-day visit, and White House officials had repeatedly brushed off questions about whether he might also travel to Ukraine while in Europe. Indeed, the White House on Sunday night issued a public schedule for Monday showing the president still in Washington and leaving in the evening for Warsaw, when in fact he was already half a world away.
But the president has made American support for Ukraine the centerpiece of his argument for a revitalized alliance in Europe, and he had told advisers that he wanted to mark the first anniversary of the invasion as a way of reassuring allies that his administration remained committed.