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Biden makes surprise trip to Ukraine ahead of Russian invasion anniversary

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KYIV, Ukraine — President Biden made a dramatic, unannounced visit to Kyiv on Monday, in a display of strong American support for Ukraine just four days before the anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

The secret, high-risk visit to the historic Ukrainian capital, where air raid sirens blared as Biden walked the streets, signals continued commitment from the United States, the largest financial and military backer of Ukraine’s effort to repel Russian invaders from its territory.

Biden was spotted outside St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shortly before noon local time. His visit capped an hours-long security lockdown as authorities blocked car traffic and even pedestrians from certain streets.

Biden has insisted the United States will continue to back Ukraine for “as long as it takes” despite flagging support among the American public and no near-term prospect of peace talks to end the conflict.

The Biden administration has provided some $30 billion in security aid since President Vladimir Putin sent Russian forces into Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, initiating the largest ground war in Europe since World War II — one that already has cost his country and Ukraine hundreds of thousands of casualties.

Under Biden’s leadership, the U.S. and its NATO allies have gradually expanding the array of weaponry they have pledged to include heavy tanks.

While other world leaders have visited Kyiv to meet with Zelensky and tour the war-scarred city over the past year, Biden has stayed away due to security concerns and fears about the possibility of conflict between the world’s two largest nuclear powers, sending senior aides in his place. First lady Jill Biden made a surprise visit to Western Ukraine on Mother’s Day in May.

In a statement issued by the White House, 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 Donbas region.

“When Putin launched his invasion nearly one year ago, he thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided. He thought he could outlast us,” Biden said. “But he was dead wrong.”

The visit represented a major boost for Zelensky as he seeks to propel Ukrainian forces forward to recapture Russian-occupied territory, and appeals to his country’s partners for additional military support, including fighter jets. U.S. officials have so far declined to provide aircraft to Ukraine.

“Joseph Biden, welcome to Kyiv!” 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 shrouded in secrecy and even greater security than other high-level visits. Biden had been due to leave for an announced visit to Poland from Washington on Monday evening but, according to a small group of reporters who traveled with Biden to Kyiv, actually departed Washington around 4 a.m. on Sunday.

Journalists accompanying Biden reported that they had agreed to withhold real-time details of the president’s movements until he departs, including information about how he arrived in the Ukrainian capital. The country’s airspace has been closed for the last year.

Viser and Woodson reported from Warsaw.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Fighting in eastern Ukraine continues as Russian forces make minor gains in their attempt to encircle the city of Bakhmut. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked Western allies for fighter jets as Russia mounts a spring offensive. Read the latest here.

The fight: Russia has been targeting Ukrainian civilian infrastructure with missile and drone strikes since October, often knocking out electricity, heating and water in the country. Despite heavy fighting, no side has made significant gains for months. Western allies agreed to a new wave of elaborate weapons, including Leopard tanks, hoping it may change the balance on the battlefield.

A year of war: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war has set off a historic exodus of his own people, with data showing that at least 500,000, and perhaps nearly 1 million, have left Russia since the start of the conflict in Ukraine. Despite that and extensive sanctions, the Russian economy has remained more resilient than many expected. There are signs, however, that Putin’s luck may be starting to run out.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the United States can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

Read our full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for updates and exclusive video.

*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.

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