First lady Jill Biden makes surprise visit to war-torn Ukraine

First lady Jill Biden makes surprise visit to war-torn Ukraine

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First Lady Jill Biden has visited Ukraine on Mother’s Day, marking a rare solo trip for the spouse of a sitting president into an active war zone

Biden crossed the border from Slovakia on Sunday after visiting a processing center to meet with refugees, The Washington Post reported. She spoke with Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska, who has not appeared in public since the start of the Russian invasion. 

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“I wanted to come on Mother’s Day,” the U.S. first lady told Zelenska. “I thought it was important to show the Ukrainian people that this war has to stop and this war has been brutal and that the people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine.”

Zelenska praised Biden for making a “courageous” trip, which occurred as an impromptu part of a four-day trip to Eastern Europe. 

The two first ladies met in a small classroom in front of reporters before meeting in private. Zelenska and her children have remained in an undisclosed location due to safety concerns as Moscow made it a priority early in the invasion to try and assassinate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his family. 

The women then joined a group of children who live at the school in making tissue-paper bears to give as Mother’s Day gifts. 

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Her visit is likely to revive questions as to when her husband will make a visit to the war-ravaged country.

President Biden has yet to visit Ukraine even as the war shifted away from the western part of the country and focuses on the Donbas region. Several high-profile individuals – including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – have now visited Kyiv and walked its streets in a sign of support for Ukraine. 

Zelenskyy told “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper that he thought that Biden should visit Ukraine because “he is the leader of the United States, and that’s why he should come here to see.” 

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Biden himself has said he was personally ready to travel to Ukraine, but the White House over the past week has continued to insist that Biden has no plans to visit. 

“No. no,” Psaki previously said on the “Pod Save America” podcast regarding potential plans to send the president to Kyiv. “We are not sending the president to Ukraine.” 

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Jill Biden’s visit is limited to western Ukraine; Russia is concentrating its military power in eastern Ukraine, and she was not in harm’s way. On the same day as Biden’s visit, a Russian bomb flattened a school in eastern Ukraine that had been sheltering about 90 people in its basement, with dozens feared dead.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.