President Joe Biden arrived in Ukraine’s capital on Monday in a surprise visit.
His aides had denied that he would visit Kyiv while on a trip to neighboring Poland.
Most aides were too worried about his safety to think the trip was worth it, Politico reported.
US President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Ukraine’s capital on Monday, even though most of his aides believed up until this month that making the trip would be too dangerous for him.
Biden arrived in Kyiv by train, in an unexpected trip when he was due to visit neighboring Poland. The visit, The New York Times reported, was kept secret over security concerns.
Many on Biden’s own team reportedly did not want him to make the trip over fears for his safety.
Politico reported on Sunday that a trip to Ukraine had been “all but ruled out” after aides looked into the feasibility, because most felt that the risk to his safety meant the trip wouldn’t be worth it.
Air raid sirens sounded over the city as Biden visited on Monday, but there were no signs of any attacks, Reuters reported.
Zelenskyy told Biden that “Your visit is an extremely important sign of support for all Ukrainians,” according to Reuters.
Biden used the trip to affirm US commitment to Ukraine as it approaches the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
He announced half a billion dollars of assistance and said that details would be given in the next few days, per The Wall Street Journal.
He said in a statement that he was meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his team “for an extended discussion on our support for Ukraine.”
He said he 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.”
Former secret agents and White House advance staff told Insider in April that it would be reckless for Biden to visit Ukraine, with one saying “You’ve just set yourself up for so many bad things if the president goes.”
The security situation in Kyiv has since calmed, and the leaders of other Western nations have visited the city since.
But the threat of a new Russian push could heighten the risk for Biden.
Biden’s visit comes just four days before that one year-anniversary.
Ukraine, Western leaders and intelligence officials fear Russia could use the anniversary to launch a big new offensive, which increased the potential security risk in Kyiv for Biden.
Russia’s troops retreated from Kyiv last year after failing to take the city, and fighting has been concentrated in eastern Ukraine since then.
But Russia’s playbook includes sending drones and missiles across the country, far from the front lines, and Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said that Russia may try to take the city all over again.
Biden said in his statement that “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.”
He said he was in Kyiv to “reaffirm our unwavering and unflagging commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.”
Biden is due to meet with Poland’s president as well as the leaders of eastern European countries after his visit to Ukraine.