President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Ukraine Monday to meet with the war torn country’s leader, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The visit came just days before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale violent invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
Biden’s journey marked the first such presidential visit to the country in 15 years, Zelenskyy said Monday. “And this is really the most important visit of the whole history of Ukraine-U.S. relationship,” he said.
The trip was historic and unprecedented for many reasons, including that Biden reportedly traveled into the war-torn country not by the presidential Boeing VC-25B Air Force One, but by train, according to reports.
Lots of visible airborne support up adjacent to Ukraine during Biden’s visit to Kyiv, including multiple tankers/transports from various NATO partners, an RAF Rivet Joint, and USAF AWACS. pic.twitter.com/004aqB3pRV— Iowa Airspace (@AirspaceIowa) February 20, 2023
“Unlike previous visits from Presidents to warzones, like Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. obviously does not have a military presence on the ground in Ukraine, which made a visit from a sitting President all the more challenging,” Kate Bedingfield, White House director of communications, said Monday.
Despite the logistical challenges, Biden “wanted to stand shoulder-to-shoulder” with Zelenskyy in the days before the anniversary as a reminder “that Kyiv still stands,” she said.
Logistics of Getting Into a War Zone
Biden’s trip has been in the works for months, and consisted of a small-scale traveling part, according to Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer. Those traveling with the president included a handful of close aides, a small medical team, a photographer, and his security detail.
At least one print pool journalist was also traveling with Biden, according to officials.
According to the BBC, Biden departed the U.S. on Air Force One around 4:15 EST February 19, more than a day before a previously scheduled visit to Warsaw. “Biden then spent 10 hours on a train to get to Kyiv,” BBC reported.
Hours before his departure to Kyiv, the administration notified Russia that Biden would be traveling, “for deconfliction purposes,” Sullivan said.
White House officials, however, were tight-lipped Monday about details of the train journey into the war zone.
“[G]iven that we’re allowing the trip to play out and finish out, we are holding back on some of those…mode of transportation details and other specific logistical details until the trip is fully complete,” Bedingfield said.
“When Putin launched his invasion nearly one year ago, he thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided,” Biden said in a statement Monday. “He thought he could outlast us. But he was dead wrong.”