May 27, 2024, Monday
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Biden in Ukraine ahead of war anniversary: ‘Kyiv stands’

The Nepal Weekly
February 21, 2023

US President Joe Biden made an unofficial visit to Ukraine on Monday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a gesture of solidarity that comes days before the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of the country.

Speaking alongside Zelenskyy at Mariinsky Palace, Biden recalled the fears nearly a year ago that Russia’s invasion forces might quickly take the Ukrainian capital. “One year later, Kyiv stands,” Biden said, jamming his finger for emphasis on his podium decorated with the U.S. and Ukrainian flags. “And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands. The Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you.”

The Ukraine visit comes at a crucial period in the war as Biden looks to keep allies unified in their support for Ukraine as the war is likely to intensify with both sides preparing for spring offensives. Zelenskyy is pressing allies to speed up delivery of pledged weapon systems and is calling on the West to deliver fighter jets to Ukraine — something that Biden to date has declined to do.

In Kyiv, Biden announced an additional 500 million dollars in U.S. assistance, including shells for howitzers, anti-tank missiles, air surveillance radars and other aid but no new advanced weaponry.

Zelenskyy said he and Biden spoke about “long range weapons and the weapons that may still be supplied to Ukraine even though it wasn’t supplied before.” But he did not detail any new commitments.

Biden also got a short firsthand taste of the terror that Ukrainians have lived with for close to a year, as air raids sirens howled over the capital just as he and Zelenskyy were exiting the gold-domed St. Michael’s Cathedral, which they visited together. Looking solemn, they continued unperturbed as they laid a wreath and held a moment of silence at the Wall of Remembrance honoring Ukrainian soldiers killed since 2014.

Biden’s mission with his visit to Kyiv, which comes ahead of a scheduled trip to Warsaw, Poland, is to underscore that the United States is prepared to stick with Ukraine “as long as it takes” to repel Russian forces even as public opinion polling suggests that U.S. and allied support for providing weaponry and direct economic assistance has started to soften. For Zelenskyy, the symbolism of having the U.S. president stand side by side with him on Ukrainian land as the anniversary nears is no small thing as he prods the U.S. and European allies to provide more advanced weaponry and to step up the pace of delivery.

“I thought it was critical that there not be any doubt, none whatsoever, about U.S. support for Ukraine in the war,” Biden announced.

Biden’s visit marked an act of defiance against Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had hoped his military would swiftly overrun Kyiv within days. Biden recalled speaking with Zelenskyy on the night of the invasion, saying, “That dark night one year ago, the world was literally at the time bracing for the fall of Kyiv. Perhaps even the end of Ukraine.”

A year later, the Ukrainian capital remains firmly under Ukrainian control, and a semblance of normalcy has returned to the city as the fighting has concentrated in the country’s east, punctuated by cruise missile and drone attacks against military and civilian infrastructure.

The visit gave Biden an opportunity to get a firsthand look at the devastation the Russian invasion has caused on Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainian troops and civilians have been killed, millions of refugees have fled the war, and Ukraine has suffered tens of billions of dollars of infrastructure damage. Biden is pledging long-term support for Ukraine, saying that “freedom is priceless. It’s worth fighting for for as long as it takes.”