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Kiev/Washington, Feb 21 – Several details have emerged of US President Joe Biden’s secret trip to Kiev, including the banning of phones during the 10-hour long train journey from Warsaw to the Ukrainian capital, a media report revealed.
White House officials have described Biden’s unexpected visit to Kiev on Monday as “unprecedented in modern times” as previous presidential trips to wartime Iraq and Afghanistan had the back up of a heavy US military presence, said the BBC report.
Biden had been scheduled to fly out from the US to Warsaw on Monday evening, for a two-day trip.
“The advance schedule however, had two suspiciously lengthy gaps in his itinerary,” the report added.
According to the BBC, reporters at the daily White House press briefings regularly inquired if Biden would make a trip to Kiev, but the replies were in the negative.
The final decision to visit the Ukrainian capital was taken during an Oval Office meeting on February 17 after months of planning.
“On Sunday, the official White House schedule still showed the President taking off for Warsaw at 7 p.m. on Monday evening. In fact, Air Force One took off at 4.15 a.m. on Sunday morning,” the BBC report said, adding that on board were a very small team of the President’s closest aides, a medical team and security officers.
The report went on to say that only two journalists were allowed to travel with Biden and they were sworn to secrecy, had their mobile phones taken away from them and were not allowed to report the visit until after the President had arrived in Kiev.
According to US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Russia was notified of the visit “only a few hours before Biden’s departure” and Washington did so “for deconfliction purposes”.
Biden then spent 10 hours on a train to get to Kiev, the BBC report noted.
Accompanying the President was his small contingent of advisers and Secret Service.
Upon his arrival in the capital city, the US President declared: “One year later, Kiev stands… And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands.”
Before Biden, a host of other world leaders also visited the war-torn nation.
They first began visiting Kiev in March 2022, when the Prime Ministers of Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic all arrived by train, reports CNN.
Then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited April 9, followed by visits from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and then-Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Kiev on April 25 to meet Zelensky, at that point the top US officials to visit.
First Lady Jill Biden paid a surprise visit on Mother’s Day last year to a small city in the far southwestern corner of Ukraine, during which she met her Ukrainian counterpart Olena Zelenska.