US President Joe Biden makes surprise visit to Ukraine

The symbolic visit by the US president comes as Ukraine will this week mark the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion

US President Joe Biden has arrived in Ukraine for a surprise visit to the war-torn nation - his first since Russia invaded.

Mr Biden announced an additional half a billion dollars in support for Ukraine's resistance against Vladimir Putin's Russia, during his meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at Mariinsky Palace, the president's official residence.

Mr Zelenskyy said the pair spoke about “long range weapons and the weapons that may still be supplied to Ukraine even though it wasn’t supplied before,” but he did not mention any new commitments.

Mr Biden and Mr Zelenskyy were pictured smiling with Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska. Credit: AP

The visit came amid a fresh drive by the Ukrainian leader for additional support from the West, with his latest request for fighter jets still being denied by all of Ukraine's allies.

Mr Biden did not respond to that demand in a press conference held at the start of his visit, but he did outline a pledge to stick with Ukraine “as long as it takes”.

“I thought it was critical that there not be any doubt, none whatsoever, about US support for Ukraine in the war,” Mr Biden added.

President Zelenskyy shared a photograph of himself and his American counterpart on his official Instagram account.

President Zelenskyy shared to Instagram a photograph of himself shaking hands with Mr Biden. Credit: AP

A translation of the caption, which was written in Ukrainian, reads: "Welcome to Kyiv! Your visit is an extremely important sign of support for all Ukrainians."

Mr Biden is the latest Western leader to make a war-time visit to the capital, following Labour's Sir Keir Starmer, who visited last week for a meeting with Mr Zelenskyy.

He was pictured walking through Kyiv, in footage which was shared on social media.

Mr Zelenskyy has toured Western nations himself recently, stopping in London and Paris in early February to ask for further air support.

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While the UK is continuing to reject Mr Zelenskyy's pleas for fighter jets, his speech to Parliament appears to have sparked a shifting of position.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said "nothing is off the table" when asked whether he would grant Mr Zelenskyy's wish.

Expanding on the PM's comment, his spokesman said Britain had already promised to train Ukrainian pilots, but added: “What we have not made a decision on is whether we send UK fighter jets."

"Obviously there is an ongoing discussion among other countries about their own fighter jets, some of which are more akin to what Ukrainian pilots are used to.”

Mr Biden tweeted to reiterate his country's support for Ukraine in its battle against Russia, after his visit was made public.

He said: "As we approach the anniversary of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, I'm in Kyiv today to meet with President Zelenskyy and reaffirm our unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.

"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.

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"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."

President Biden had been under pressure to make his first visit to Ukraine since Russia invaded a year ago, given several European heads of state had already made visits early in the war.

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His wife Jill visited western Ukraine in May last year.

In June, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and then Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi traveled together by night train to Kyiv to meet with Zelenskyy.

Prime Minister Sunak visited Kyiv in November shortly after taking office.