Biden in surprise visit to Ukraine as invasion anniversary nears
(Update 1: Adds detail throughout)
Kyiv, Feb 20 (EFE).- United States president Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv on Monday ahead of the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Biden, traveling to Ukraine for the first time since Russia launched its invasion on February 24 last year, met with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
At a joint press conference in Kyiv, Biden said the US would provide Ukraine with an additional $500 million of military aid and would draw up fresh sanctions against Russia.
Biden recalled a telephone conversation he had with Zelenskyy when Russia launched its full scale invasion of Ukraine.
“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.
“One year later, Kyiv stands and Ukraine stands, democracy stands. The Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you,” he said.
He said Russia’s president Vladimir Putin was failing in his “war of conquest.”
“Russia’s military has lost half its territory it once occupied,” he said. “Russia’s economy is now a backwater, isolated and struggling.”
The US leader said the country would stand by Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”
Speaking before Biden, Zelenskyy thanked the US for its support of Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion.
Zelenskyy last met with Biden in December during a trip to the US in what was his first overseas visit since the war began.
In the weeks leading up to the war in Ukraine, the US repeatedly warned that Russian military forces amassed along the Ukraine’s border were preparing for a full-scale invasion.
In the early hours of February 24, Putin said in a televised speech that Russia would launch a “special military operation” in Ukraine after recognizing the proclaimed independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, two oblasts in eastern Ukraine that were subject to a pro-Russian occupation since 2014.
The declaration was swiftly followed by missile strikes in Ukraine, as Russian forces and pro-Russian allies moved in from the east, south and north.
By March, Russian forces occupied swathes of southern and eastern Ukraine and almost encircled the capital Kyiv before an effective Ukrainian counter-offensive pushed the invading troops back in several directions.
A leading military backer of Ukraine, the US recently announced it would send 31 modern Abrams tanks to Ukraine and has previously supplied Kyiv with state-of-the-art Himars missile launchers.
Between 7,000 – 11,700 civilians are estimated to have been killed since Russia launched its invasion last year, according to the United Nations. EFE