President Joe Biden’s surprise six-hour visit to Kiev to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Feb. 20 has been planned by the White House for months, but will not take place until Feb. 17. It was not “executed,” administration officials told journalists on a conference call. After Biden left the country in bewilderment without revealing when or how he did so.
“This visit was meticulously planned over many months, involving several White House offices, of course the Chief of Staff’s office, and the NSC. [National Security Council]the White House military office, and a handful of colleagues at the Pentagon, the Secret Service and, of course, the intelligence community,” said Deputy National Security Advisor John Finer.
“Only a handful of people in each of these buildings were involved in planning operational security,” he said. This included a threat assessment.
“After being well briefed on each stage of the plan and potential contingencies, Biden said he would make a final ‘go’ or a phone call with key members of the National Security Cabinet after a meeting in the Oval Office. We made the decision to ‘not go.’ on Friday,” Finner said.
Biden left the White House at 3:30 a.m. with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, deputy chief of staff Jen O’Malley Dillon, Oval Office operations chief Annie Tommasini, and a small medical team. , the official White House photographer, and two journalists.
“Obviously, this worked very closely between the White House and the highest levels of the Ukrainian government. It wasn’t something,” said Finner, the ground.
Sullivan said the White House notified the Russians of Biden’s plans “for dispute resolution purposes” but did not notify them until “hours before his departure.”
“And because these communications are highly sensitive, we don’t know how they reacted or the exact nature of our message, but we can confirm that we provided that notice. increase.
“The president was very focused on making the most of his time on the ground, but he knew it would be limited,” Sullivan told reporters. I was pretty focused on how I was going to approach the conversation with the president.”
Officials did not disclose how Biden got to Kiev, but he arrived at around 8 a.m. He said he had met with Zelensky and Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska.
Later, an Associated Press journalist who traveled with Biden reported that the president and his team flew in an Air Force C-32 (a modified Boeing 757). The team left Joint Base Andrews at 4:15 am and stopped in Germany. After refueling, he turned off the plane’s transponder and prepared for his one-hour flight to Rzeszow, Poland.
From there, the team boarded a train for the approximately 10-hour overnight trip to Kiev.
Upon arriving at the Mariinsky Palace, Biden and Zelensky conferred for more than two hours.
“The two presidents discussed at length the situation on the battlefield, Ukraine’s objectives, military support and support, and future capabilities,” Sullivan said. “We are not announcing any new features today, so I won’t go into details about them.
“I think both presidents have given their views on the various abilities that have been in the press lately and over the last few months. And I’ll leave it at that.
another $500 million
Just before 11:30 a.m., Biden left the palace and traveled to Kiev’s St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery, where he and Zelensky laid wreaths on a memorial to those killed fighting Russia since 2014. was dedicated toKiev was reported to have departed around noon and his convoy had departed shortly before 1 p.m.
White House officials and journalists who accompanied Biden before 2 p.m. local time said the president had left Kiev, but gave no further details. He is reported to be in Warsaw some time later and will begin the trip to Poland scheduled for his speech on 21 February.
A White House official said the visit was a major show of support just days before Russia’s Invasion Day, with Biden declaring that “the United States will continue to support Ukraine in the conflict.”
During his visit, Biden pledged an additional $500 million in aid, howitzer shells, anti-tank missiles, and air surveillance radar, but the new advanced weaponry Kiev is demanding, including jets did not provide.
“He was excited to make the trip,” Sullivan said. “I think he felt it was really important to stand next to President Zelensky and talk like he did today and deliver the message that he heard from him … frankly, the trip from Washington was the best way to make this happen. It was a trip full of real anticipation, it was an important moment and the president was on his feet at that moment and he felt he had a mission to fulfill and he was eager for it. I wanted to do it.”