US President Joe Biden was greeted by Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife, Olena Zelenska, as he arrived at Mariyinsky Palace in Kyiv on Monday (Image courtesy: Twitter/@ZelenskaUA)
Russia and Ukraine accused each other of “provocation” and “nuclear blackmail” even as US President Joe Biden walked the streets of Kyiv with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky amidst blaring air raid sirens during a surprise visit to the war-ravaged region on Monday.
Biden’s trip to the Ukrainian capital came just a few days ahead of the first anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine war on February 24.
Former Russian Prime Minister and President Dmitry Medvedev, who is also Deputy Head of Russia’s Security Council, stated that the US President had received safety guarantees from Moscow in advance.
“Biden, having previously received security guarantees, finally went to Kyiv,” Medvedev wrote on his Telegram account without giving much details.
In Kyiv, the US President said he will announce later this week another delivery of critical equipment, including artillery ammunition, anti-armour systems, and air surveillance radars to help protect the Ukrainian people from aerial bombardments.
“One year later, Kyiv stands. Ukraine stands. Democracy stands. America — and the world — stands with Ukraine,” tweeted Biden along with a photograph of him and Zelensky outside St Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery in Kyiv.
“Over the last year, the United States has built a coalition of nations from the Atlantic to the Pacific to help defend Ukraine with unprecedented military, economic, and humanitarian support – and that support will endure,” he added.
Historic. Timely. Brave. I welcomed @POTUS in Kyiv as Russian full-scale aggression approaches its one-year mark. I am thankful to the U.S. for standing with Ukraine and for our strong partnership. We are determined to work together to ensure Ukraine’s victory. pic.twitter.com/EPtH3fLWWD
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) February 20, 2023
Moscow also accused the Kyiv regime of continuing to prepare for a “large-scale provocation” to accuse the Russian Federation of allegedly “gross violation” of the obligations of the Convention on Nuclear Safety during the ongoing conflict.
“To implement this provocation, several containers with radioactive substances were delivered from the territory of one of the European states to Ukraine, bypassing customs inspection , which will be used to stage local contamination of the area in the area of one of the radiation-hazardous objects controlled by the Kiev regime,” the Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement before the start of the 11th emergency special session of the UN General Assembly.
The aim of the provocation, it added, is the accusation of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation of allegedly delivering indiscriminate strikes on radiation-hazardous objects in Ukraine, which led to the leakage of radioactive substances and contamination of the area.
On the other hand, the Ukrainian Defence Ministry’s Department of Intelligence alleged that Russia may increase nuclear blackmail in order to disrupt the visit of the US President to Europe.
President Biden and President Zelenskyy outside St. Michael’s Cathedral in Kyiv during Biden’s surprise visit to Ukraine.
It’s first time in modern history that a US president has entered a war zone where there is not an active American military presence. https://t.co/aBoINlMytr pic.twitter.com/lqIW0BDS0m
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 20, 2023
“Russia is starting large-scale exercises of strategic nuclear forces on the eve of US President Joe Biden’s visit to Europe. Currently, the preparation of components of the strategic nuclear forces for the launch of sea and land-based ballistic missiles, as well as air-based cruise missiles, has been confirmed,” it said on its Telegram channel.
Ukraine said that, as part of preparations for the exercises, a check of the centralized combat control system of the Russian Armed Forces ‘Monolit’ was carried out.
“In particular, the combat control channels were checked, the forces and assets of the Strategic Nuclear Forces (SNF) were transferred to the highest levels of combat readiness, the crew of the missile submarine cruiser of strategic purpose was given a combat order to exit the launch area, and the 24-hour combat readiness of the SNF was maintained.”
The actions of the military and political leadership of the Russian Federation, mentioned Kyiv, are an attempt to “hinder Joe Biden’s visit to Europe” through “direct nuclear blackmail and to weaken international support” for Ukraine.
The entire center of #Kyiv has been blocked for some very important guest#Ukraine Media speculates that it is Master #Biden heself came to visit
No one is allowed to drive on the main street pic.twitter.com/tkmunTQjHq
— Arthur Morgan (@ArthurM40330824) February 20, 2023
The US President now travels to Warsaw to meet Polish President Andrzej Duda and the leaders of NATO’s Eastern Flank Allies.