Biden’s surprise Kyiv visit meets Ukrainian jubilation and Russian ire

Almost a year to the day after Russia’s invasion, Biden walks through Ukraine’s capital amid air raid sirens.

President Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during an unannounced visit in Kyiv. (Evan Vucci/AP, Pool)

KYIV — President Biden arrived in Kyiv for a surprise six-hour visit Monday, meeting with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky.

Rumors had abounded in the Ukrainian capital that someone special was visiting — there was an exceptionally high level of security, even in a city that has regularly hosted high-level foreign dignitaries over the past year. Whole sectors of the city center were closed to traffic and cordoned off, with significant numbers of Ukrainian police and security forces visible as Biden’s motorcade sped through.

The visit had been kept a closely guarded secret until the last minute, with only a select few high-level figures on both sides knowing the advance plans. On Monday morning, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba canceled a scheduled meeting with European foreign ministers in Brussels. His deputy foreign minister teased that a “surprise is being prepared in Kyiv in connection with the visit of high-ranking foreign guests.”

One of those apprised of the visit was Russian President Vladimir Putin. The White House said it had alerted the Kremlin to Biden’s trip in an effort to “deconflict” with Russia’s ongoing war. Though not without risk, the United States was in essence making its geopolitical adversary a fellow guarantor of Biden’s safety in an active war zone, the first time in recent American history that a commander in chief had traveled to one absent a sizable U.S. military presence.

Like everyone else, from high-ranking foreign dignitaries to journalists and an array of Western celebrities, Biden arrived in Kyiv by rail. His traveling party was reportedly uncharacteristically small, and his motorcade was missing the famous “beast,” the heavily armored Secret Service limousine that normally accompanies the president overseas.

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