US President Joe Biden made an unannounced trip to Kyiv early Monday for the first time since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago.
Biden arrived in Kyiv at 8 a.m. local time (1:00 a.m. ET), according to reporters traveling with him inside the country, and was greeted by the US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink. His motorcade arrived at the Mariinsky Palace just after 8:30 a.m. local time. He was greeted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife, Olena Zelenska.
“Thank you for coming,” Zelensky said, shaking Biden’s hand.
The pictures below show Biden's meeting with Zelensky, which took place as air raid sirens could be heard ringing out while the two leaders walked around the city.
Here's a look:
6:19 a.m. ET, February 20, 2023
Biden declares Putin's "war of conquest" is failing in remarks from Kyiv
From CNN's Kevin Liptak, Allie Malloy and Betsy Klein in Warsaw
US President Joe Biden declared from Kyiv on Monday that a year after invading Ukraine, "Putin’s war of conquest is failing."
“Putin thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided,” Biden said standing alongside Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky. “He thought he could outlast us. I don’t think he’s thinking that right now.”
“He’s just been plain wrong,” Biden said of Putin. “One year later, the evidence is right here in this room. We stand here together.”
Biden's visit to Ukraine, his first since the invasion, was a highly symbolic moment meant to demonstrate lasting American support for the country and its people.
He harkened back to the start of the war, when the world was anxiously watching the buildup of Russian troops along Ukraine's border.
In his speech, Biden recalled how he and Zelensky spoke by phone as “Russian planes were in the air and tanks were going across your border.”
“You told me that you could hear explosions in the background,” Biden said. “I’ll never forget that.”
“The world was about to change," he said, recalling what Zelensky asked him to do on that phone call: “Gather the leaders of the world. Ask them to support Ukraine.”
“You said that you didn’t know when we’d be able to speak again. That dark night one year ago, the world was literally at the time bracing for the fall of Kyiv,” Biden said. “Perhaps even the end of Ukraine.”
“One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands,” he declared. “The Americans stand with you and the world stands with you.”
Biden said that Kyiv has “captured a part of my heart."
6:22 a.m. ET, February 20, 2023
Biden flew to Ukraine under cover of darkness, and his trip was kept secret for 24 hours
From CNN's Kevin Liptak
President Biden's trip to Kyiv on Monday was shrouded in secrecy, a reflection of the steep security concerns of visiting an active war zone.
Air Force One departed Joint Base Andrews under cover of darkness at 4:15 a.m. ET on Sunday. Reporters aboard the plane were not allowed to carry their devices with them.
Biden's public schedule didn't reflect the trip, and White House officials repeatedly said last week that a visit to Ukraine was not in the works.
On Saturday evening, before he departed, Biden went out to dinner with his wife in Washington. He wasn't seen in public again until arriving in Kyiv on Monday morning.
Ukraine is an active war zone where the US military has no control, making Monday's visit different from previous presidential trips to Iraq or Afghanistan. White House officials had repeatedly ruled out a visit earlier in the year.
Biden is traveling with a relatively small entourage, including national security adviser Jake Sullivan, deputy chief of staff Jen O'Malley Dillon and personal aide Annie Tomasini.
President Zelensky first invited Biden to visit Kyiv a year ago, as Russian forces were massing on the border. As recently as last week, Zelensky said his invitation for Biden to visit Ukraine remained open, even as he acknowledged there were other means for them to speak.
Biden visited Ukraine six times as vice president. His last visit to Kyiv was in January 2017, days before leaving office. Before Monday, that visit remained the last highest-ranking visit to Ukraine, since neither Vice President Pence nor President Trump ever visited.
6:51 a.m. ET, February 20, 2023
Biden and Zelensky left a Kyiv church together just before air raid sirens sounded
CNN’s Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward described what she saw as US President Joe Biden met with Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv earlier on Monday.
The pair arrived outside the city’s St. Michael’s Church, Ward told CNN's Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo, entering the building from behind before leaving about five minutes later just before air sirens began to wail.
The two leaders then walked out of the church together, following two soldiers who were carrying wreaths to a wall of the fallen, commemorating those who have lost their lives in combat.
Ward went on to say the two leaders stayed there for a moment to pay their respects before embracing each other, showing the “rapport” the leaders have, she said.
5:59 a.m. ET, February 20, 2023
"It's amazing to see you," Biden told Zelensky as he arrived for historic visit
From CNN's Kevin Liptak
Sitting for talks with President Volodomyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Monday, Joe Biden laid out his rationale for visiting the Ukrainian capital as the war enters a second year.
“I thought it was critical that there not be any doubt, none whatsoever, about US support for Ukraine in the war,” the US President said. “The Ukrainian people have stepped up in a way that few people ever have in the past."
Biden emphasized there was broad, bipartisan support in Washington for the Ukrainian cause, even as some Republicans balk at providing further assistance.
“For all the disagreement we have in our Congress on some issues, there is significant agreement on support for Ukraine,” he said. “It’s not just about freedom in Ukraine … It’s about freedom of democracy at large," he said.
Biden arrived in Kyiv at 8 a.m. local time (1:00 a.m. ET), according to reporters traveling with him inside Ukraine.
“It’s good to be back in Kyiv,” Biden said when he arrived. He was greeted by the US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink.
Biden's motorcade arrived to the Mariinsky Palace just after 8:30 a.m. local time (1:30 a.m.ET). He was greeted at the entrance by Zelensky and his wife, Olena Zelenska.
“Thank you for coming,” Zelensky said shaking Biden’s hand. “More importantly, how are the children?” Biden asked, while adding: “It’s amazing to see you.”
Asked about the significance of being in Kyiv, Biden noted it was his eighth visit to the city. “Each time more significant,” Biden said.
He added that the purpose of his visit was to convey to Zelensky that the US is “here to stay.” “We’re not leaving,” Biden said.
6:00 a.m. ET, February 20, 2023
Biden’s visit to Ukraine follows in the footsteps of other world leaders
US President Joe Biden has been itching to visit Ukraine for months, particularly after several of his counterparts in Europe all made lengthy train journeys to meet with Zelensky in Kyiv.
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, as well as former British leader Boris Johnson, have all made visits to the country to demonstrate their support.
Several of Biden’s top lieutenants, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, have also visited the Ukrainian capital to pledge new assistance. Senior administration officials, including CIA Director Bill Burns and top White House officials, visited Kyiv last month.
Biden’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, paid her own surprise visit on Mother’s Day last year to a small city in the far southwestern corner of Ukraine. She met with Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska at a former school that was converted into temporary housing for displaced Ukrainians, including 48 children.
Yet security precautions had prevented Biden from making a similar trip. When he visited Poland in April last year, the White House did not even explore the potential for a trip across the border, even though Biden said he had voiced interest.
“They will not let me — understandably, I guess — cross the border and take a look at what’s going on in Ukraine,” he said at the time.
6:00 a.m. ET, February 20, 2023
Biden announces new sanctions on Russia and says Putin "was dead wrong"
US President Joe Biden has said he visited Kyiv to reaffirm the United States' "unwavering" support for Ukraine, announcing new military aid and a fresh swath of sanctions on the historic trip.
"As the world prepares to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, I am in Kyiv today to meet with President Zelenskyy and reaffirm our unwavering and unflagging commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity," Biden said in a statement released by the White House.
"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. But he was dead wrong," Biden said.
The President confirmed another donation of US military equipment, and said that later this week his government "would announce additional sanctions against elites and companies that are trying to evade or backfill Russia’s war machine."
Biden is set to visit Poland later this week as he marks the anniversary of Russia's invasion.
6:00 a.m. ET, February 20, 2023
Biden announces half-billion dollars in assistance to Ukraine on surprise trip
From CNN's Kevin Liptak
President Joe Biden announced a half-billion dollars of additional assistance to Ukraine during a surprise visit to Ukraine on Monday.
Biden, in joint remarks alongside Ukrainian President Zelensky, said the package would include more military equipment, including artillery ammunition, more javelins and Howitzers.
Zelensky 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.”
In remarks, Biden spoke about the resilience of the Ukrainian resistance as the war enters its second year.
One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands,” Biden said.
Biden met with Zelensky, as well as first lady Olena Zelenska, at Kyiv's presidential palace on Monday.
The historic visit comes just days before the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of the country.
5:30 a.m. ET, February 20, 2023
Biden’s Ukraine trip comes after multiple invitations from Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky invited US President Joe Biden to visit Kyiv months ago, saying he believed it was important for the US leader to see the situation up close.
As recently as last week, Zelensky said his invitation for Biden to visit Ukraine remained open.
"President Biden and I meet occasionally. You know that we have invited the President. I think he will be happy to visit Ukraine if he has the opportunity. That would be an important signal to support our nation,” Zelensky said on February 15.
Zelensky traveled to Washington in December to meet Biden in the Oval Office and speak to a joint session of Congress — his first trip outside Ukraine since the war began.