First lady Dr. Jill Biden makes surprise visit to Ukraine
Washington — First lady Dr. Jill Biden made a surprise trip to Ukraine on Sunday, meeting with the first lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska and visiting with Ukrainian children who have been displaced by the ongoing war with Russia.
Biden, who embarked on her trip to Eastern Europe on Thursday, crossed the border from Slovakia into southwestern Ukraine on Sunday afternoon for the unannounced visit to a public school in Uzhhorod that was converted into a temporary shelter, housing 163 Ukrainians, including 47 children. It was a rare occasion for a first lady from the United States to visit a war zone.
The first lady was greeted by Zelenska, who has not been seen in public since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, according to a U.S. official. According to a U.S. official, the two women had been in touch for several weeks.
“I wanted to come on Mother’s Day,” Biden told reporters traveling with her. “We felt it was important to show Ukraine that the war must stop, and that this war is brutal, and that the peoples of the United States stand by the people of Ukraine. “
Zelenska called the visit by Biden a “very courageous act. “
“Because we understand what it takes for the U.S. first lady to come here during a war when the military actions are taking place every day, where the air sirens are happening every day, even today,” she said. We all appreciate your support and the leadership of the U.S. president. However, we want to point out that Mother’s Day is very symbolic for us as we also feel your love during such an important holiday. “
Biden and Zelenska held a private bilateral meeting for roughly an hour, after which they met with children who were making bears out of cardboard and tissue paper for their mothers.
The first lady returned to Slovakia after spending roughly two hours in Ukraine.
Biden joins a growing number of top U.S. officials who have made secret visits to Ukraine in recent weeks. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin traveled to the capital city of Kyiv in April, and a delegation of House Democrats led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a secret trip to the capital last week and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
President Biden has not traveled to Ukraine, though he visited Eastern Europe in March.
Biden’s unannounced stop in Ukraine is the first by the spouse of a sitting president to a war zone since Laura Bush visited Afghanistan in 2008. The former first lady also visited Afghanistan in 2005. Michelle Obama in 2015 traveled to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, which has been designated a combat zone since 1991, to meet with troops.
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