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Jill Biden Makes Surprise Mother’s Day Visit To Ukraine

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Topline

U.S. first lady Jill Biden met with Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska in a previously unannounced trip to a western Ukrainian border city Sunday, marking the latest of several visits by U.S. officials to Ukraine underscoring the close relationship between the two allies.

US first lady Jill Biden, left, offers flowers to Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska, outside of … [+] School 6, in the Ukrainian city of Uzhorod, on May 8, 2022.

SUSAN WALSH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Key Facts

The first lady’s press secretary Michael LaRosa confirmed the visit to Uzhorod, which is near Ukraine’s border with Slovakia, in a Sunday morning tweet.

Biden said the surprise visit was timed to coincide with Mother’s Day and was intended as a gesture of support for the Ukrainian people, the Washington Post reported.

Zelenska called Biden’s visit to the war-torn country a “very courageous act” before the two first ladies began a closed-door meeting, according to the Post.

The secret visit came during Biden’s four-day trip to Eastern Europe: She previously met with Ukrainian refugees in the Slovakian border city of Košice, reportedly remarking to one woman that Russia’s invasion was “so hard to understand,” and she visited refugees and U.S. troops in Romania.

Biden’s visit to Ukraine follows trips to the country by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and several other Democratic House members.

Kristina Kvien—the chargé d’affaires, or top diplomat, for the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine—returned to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv Sunday, about three months after most embassy staff were ordered to leave, the embassy announced on Twitter.

Key Background

The White House has adopted a policy of not pre-announcing official visits to Ukraine as a security precaution. Nonetheless, Blinken, Austin and Pelosi—who was accompanied by Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), House Rules Committee Chair Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)—have all undertaken visits to Kyiv, reflecting a close level of cooperation between the U.S. and Ukraine. The U.S. has also announced plans to reopen its Kyiv embassy by the end of May, after the embassy was moved to Poland in the wake of the invasion.

Big Number

5.8 million. That’s how many refugees have fled Ukraine since February 24, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Tangent

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Sunday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trudeau’s office said. Trudeau’s visit included a trip to Irpin, a suburb of Kyiv targeted by the Russian invasion, where he met with Mayor Oleksandr Markushyn and other officials, several news outlets reported. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Wednesday that Ukraine would be “very glad” to host a visit by Trudeau, and that his government would ensure Trudeau’s security during a visit.

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