How the president's unexpected visit to Ukraine was concealed by Vice President Biden

Volodymyr Zelensky and Joseph Biden

For a US president, it was a risky journey that was almost unheard of.

Joe Biden's unplanned visit to Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, is being described by White House officials as "unprecedented in modern times" because it occurred in a war zone that is frequently attacked.

They claim that previous presidential visits to war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan were supported by a significant US military presence.

And despite widespread press speculation that Vice President Biden might be considering a trip to Ukraine while he was in Poland, the visit still completely caught everyone off guard.

The fact that he showed up alongside President Volodymyr Zelensky in the middle of Kyiv while air raid sirens were sounding speaks louder than anything he could possibly say in a speech in Poland.

In the words of White House communications director Kate Bedingfield, "It was risky and should leave no doubt in anyone's mind that Joe Biden is a leader who takes commitment seriously.".

Mr. Biden was slated to depart the US for a two-day trip to Warsaw on Monday evening.

Two suspiciously long gaps in his itinerary were noted in the advance schedule, and many people suspected that he might enter Ukraine during those times.

At the daily White House press briefings, reporters have inquired about a visit on numerous occasions. We were informed that no meetings with Mr. Zelensky or stops outside of Warsaw were "currently" scheduled.

Despite months of planning with a select group of the presidents' top aides, the decision to travel to Kyiv was only made in its entirety on Friday.

The president was scheduled to leave for Warsaw at 19:00 EST (00:00 GMT) on Monday evening, according to the White House's official schedule as of Sunday. In actuality, Air Force One departed on Sunday at 04:15 EST.

His closest assistants, a medical team, and security personnel were all aboard in a purposefully small group.

The president was only permitted to travel with two journalists. Their cell phones were confiscated, and they were sworn to secrecy. Until Mr. Biden arrived in Kiev, they were not permitted to publicly discuss the visit.

According to US national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Russia was made aware of the trip a few hours before Mr. Biden's departure.

The US, according to him, "did so for deconfliction purposes... I won't get into how they responded or what the specifics of our message were, but I can confirm we provided that notice.".

The journey to Kyiv for President Biden took a further ten hours on a train. He could have made easier trips to other places in Ukraine, but he preferred to go to Kyiv itself for symbolic reasons.

The president's trip also serves as a demonstration to US voters at home of the Biden administration's commitment to assisting Ukraine, while also sending a message to Moscow.

Last week, his press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was questioned about surveys showing a decline in American support for Ukraine.

She responded that whenever the president speaks, he addresses both Americans and people all over the world. The purpose of Monday's message is to forcefully refute the few Republican voices that wonder how long the US can support Ukraine.

Reporters like me, who had assumed they would be traveling to Poland with Mr. Biden later on Monday, are now making the trip on a plane that won't be called Air Force One as a result of the unexpected visit.

Only when the president is aboard is when the renowned call sign is used.

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