President Biden made a surprise visit to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Monday in a dramatic show of support for the war-torn country, just days ahead of the anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
Mr. Biden met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the two walked through the capital streets as air raid sirens blared. He also announced the delivery of nearly $500 million in additional U.S. aid for Ukraine.
The president said the trip to the war zone reaffirmed the United States’ “unwavering and unflagging commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The stop came ahead of Mr. Biden’s visit to Poland, where he will meet with other world leaders and deliver remarks to observe a full year since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
“He’s counting on us not sticking together,” Mr. Biden said of the Russian president. “He thought he could outlast us. I don’t think he’s thinking that right now. God knows what he’s thinking, but I don’t think he’s thinking that. But he’s just been plain wrong.”
Mr. Biden and Mr. Zelenskyy announced a $460 million aid package for Ukraine. The aid includes $450 million worth of arms and equipment, and $10 million for emergency assistance needs, including maintaining Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
Mr. Zelenskyy said he was “grateful” for the strong U.S. support and said the result of the Biden visit will “surely have a reflection on the battlefield.”
With popular support for Ukraine in the U.S. and Europe showing some signs of weakening, Ukrainian officials had been anxious for the symbolism of an American presidential stop, the first by a U.S. president since George W. Bush in 2008.
Some Republicans in Congress criticized Mr. Biden’s trip, saying he was neglecting issues in the U.S. such as inflation, rising prices, and chaos at the southern border to focus on Ukraine.
“This is incredibly insulting. Today on our President’s Day, Joe Biden, the President of the United States chose Ukraine over America, while forcing the American people to pay for Ukraine’s government war. I can not express how much Americans hate Joe Biden,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, Georgia Republican, wrote on Twitter.
Rep. Greg Murphy, North Carolina Republican, said Mr. Biden was traveling to tour a war zone “that he created in Ukraine.”
Not all Republicans slammed the president.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, hailed the visit as “the right signal sent at the right time.”
The Kremlin issued a warning to Mr. Zelenskyy, noting that other world leaders who became too closely aligned with the U.S. suffered misfortunes.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakaharov cited the example of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, a pro-Western leader now serving a prison sentence in his home country. She also highlighted the case of U.S.-backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who was recently ousted as head of the movement that sought to remove socialist President Nicolas Maduro from power.
“This is what awaits all those who have sold their souls to the Americans: damned by their own people, needed by no one, forced to spend lavishly the money earned in America from betraying their countries on American lawyers,” she wrote, according to TASS, the official Russian news agency.
Air defense sirens could be heard while Mr. Biden was on the ground in Kyiv, but Ukrainian military officials said they were set off by Russian fighter jets taking off in neighboring Belarus, a regular late-morning occurrence.
Mr. Biden arrived as Ukrainians were marking the “Day of the Heavenly Hundred Heroes,” commemorating the protesters killed in the clashes that drove pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych from power in 2014.
The trip was shrouded in secrecy and deception, coming after multiple denials from the White House that Mr. Biden would visit Ukraine during his European trip. The public schedule released by the White House said Mr. Biden would not depart Washington until Monday night.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Sunday there were “no plans” for Mr. Biden to step over the border into Ukraine while he was in Poland.
Mr. Biden left early for a scheduled visit to Poland and secretly took a train into the war-wracked country to meet with Mr. Zelenskyy and other top Ukrainian figures.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. notified the Russians hours ahead of time that Mr. Biden would be traveling to Kyiv, citing “de-confliction purposes.” He said the nature of the communication was sensitive so he could not detail how the Russians responded or the precise nature of the discussions.
Mr. Sullivan was reluctant to talk about other logistics until he got the all-clear from other officials.
On the plane, Mr. Sullivan said Mr. Biden was focused on his message to Mr. Zelenskyy and objectives for the second year of the war.
“He was quite focused on how he was going to approach his conversation with President Zelenskyy,” Mr. Sullivan said. “He was excited about making the trip. The trip from Washington was a trip filled with real anticipation that this was an important moment and the president was rising to the moment.”
• Mike Glenn and Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this story.