Biden in surprise Kyiv visit
President Joe Biden (L) shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Mariinsky Palace in Kyiv on February 20, 2023. US President Joe Biden promised increased arms deliveries for Ukraine during a surprise visit to Kyiv on February 20, 2023, in which he also vowed Washington's "unflagging commitment" in defending Ukraine's territorial integrity. (Photo by Evan Vucci / POOL / AFP)
(AFP) - US President Joe Biden on Monday made a surprise trip to Kyiv, promising increased arms deliveries for Ukraine and unflagging support ahead of the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of the country.
Air raid sirens rang out across the capital as Biden met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on what is the US president's first visit to the country since Russian troops invaded on February 24, 2022.
Uniformed Ukrainian military officers lined the street just outside. Biden and Zelensky walked over and together laid a wreath at the Wall of Remembrance for the fallen heroes of the Russian-Ukrainian war, as a military salute played and the two presidents stared down in silence for a few moments.
Biden promised increased arms deliveries for Ukraine and vowed Washington's "unflagging commitment" in defending Ukraine's territorial integrity.
"I will announce another delivery of critical equipment, including artillery ammunition, anti-armor systems, and air surveillance radars to help protect the Ukrainian people from aerial bombardments," he was quoted as saying in a White House statement.
Ukraine is estimated to be burning through thousands more shells each month than the EU defence industry is currently able to produce.
Zelensky hailed Biden's visit as a key sign of support.
"Joseph Biden, welcome to Kyiv! Your visit is an extremely important sign of support for all Ukrainians," Zelensky said on Telegram in English.
The visit came as Beijing lashed out against US claims that China was considering sending arms to Russia to assist in its war in Ukraine.
"It is the United States and not China that is endlessly shipping weapons to the battlefield," China's foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said when asked about the US claims.
"We urge the United States to earnestly reflect on its own actions, and do more to alleviate the situation, promote peace and dialogue, and stop shifting blame and spreading false information," he told a regular briefing.
The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also warned China against providing Russia with weapons for the war in Ukraine, saying: "for us, it would be a red line in our relationship."
- 'Most urgent issue' -
On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said China was now "considering providing lethal support" to Moscow ranging "from ammunition to the weapons themselves".
The European Union and United States have sided firmly with Ukraine since Moscow launched its all-out invasion a year ago, providing Kyiv with weapons and financial aid worth billions of euros.
There has been widespread concern about Beijing's deepening relationship with Moscow and its refusal to condemn the Kremlin's aggression outright.
The European Union is also weighing up plans to try to speed up its production and delivery of much-needed ammunition to help Kyiv's fight.
"We'll do everything we can," Borrell said. "This is the most urgent issue, if we fail on that then really the result of the war is in danger."
At the Munich security conference over the weekend, Borrell issued a stark warning about Ukraine's dwindling supplies of bullets and similar munitions as it fights back against Russia's invasion.
"(Let's) accelerate our military support to Ukraine because Ukraine is in a critical situation from the point of view with ammunition available," Borrell said.
"This shortage of ammunition has to resolve quickly, it's a matter of weeks."
On Saturday, US Vice President Kamala Harris said in Munich that Russia had committed "crimes against humanity" in Ukraine through "widespread and systemic" attacks on the country's civilian population.
Biden will speak in Warsaw on Tuesday to hail NATO's unprecedented effort to help Ukrainians save their country as he marks the war's first year.
On the same day, President Vladimir Putin is set to give his own speech in Moscow, three days from the February 24th anniversary of Russian tanks rolling into Ukraine.
© Agence France-Presse