© 2024 KOSU
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Biden hears Zelenskyy's plan for peace with Russia during surprise visit to Kyiv


President Biden is in Poland tonight after a daring and unexpected stop in Kyiv today. Biden arrived just shy of a year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He spent the visit with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who called this the most important visit in U.S.-Ukrainian history. NPR's Joanna Kakissis was among a small group of journalists who joined the two presidents for the meeting.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Retired banker Nina Albul says she had a feeling something big was going to happen this morning. She noticed the city center in Kyiv was blocked, and people were everywhere. She wondered - what's going on?

NINA ALBUL: (Through interpreter) And then I saw on the news that Joe Biden came here, and I couldn't believe it. I phoned and text everyone I knew, and I asked, is it true or am I hallucinating?

KAKISSIS: She says Biden's visit touched her so much she cried.

ALBUL: (Through interpreter) Our young men and women are fighting to keep Ukraine free. And here is this famous man visiting us in the middle of a war.

KAKISSIS: A year ago, many predicted Ukraine and its capital would fall to Russia within days. Today, President Biden was in Kyiv standing side-by-side with Zelenskyy.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: You and all Ukrainians, Mr. President, remind the world every single day what the meaning of the word courage is.

KAKISSIS: Biden recalled calling Zelenskyy the night Russia invaded almost a year ago, on February 24.


BIDEN: You told me that you could hear the explosions in the background - I'll never forget that - and the world was about to change. I remember it vividly because I asked you next - I asked you, what is there, Mr. President? What can I do for you? How can I be of help?

KAKISSIS: Zelenskyy said get the world to support Ukraine. Biden says he did just that, and the Western coalition has stuck together.


BIDEN: Putin thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided. As you know, Mr. President, I said to you in the beginning, he's counting on us not sticking together. He thought he could outlast us. I don't think he's thinking that right now.

KAKISSIS: Biden said sanctions have weakened the Russian economy and that the U.S. would seek even more of them. And Biden announced that he's seeking another half a billion dollars in aid for Ukraine, something which energized Zelenskyy.


PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY: (Through interpreter) Such an hefty aid package is an unambiguous signal that Russian attempts to take revenge on Ukraine will be fruitless.

KAKISSIS: Zelenskyy also laid out his plan for peace with Russia. It includes giving Ukraine NATO-style security guarantees and forcing Russia to return Ukrainian territory it has taken by force. He suggested Biden likes his plan.


ZELENSKYY: (Through interpreter) We agree on most points of my peace formula. It's a security imperative to restore the U.N. charter and to defend an international order based on human rights.


KAKISSIS: After their speeches, the two presidents paid tribute at a makeshift memorial to Ukrainians who have been killed fighting Russian forces. The memorial is outside St Michael's, the golden-domed cathedral that serves as the headquarters of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.


KAKISSIS: And as the two presidents walked inside, an air raid siren went off, a sign that Ukraine is still very much a country at war. Joanna Kakissis, NPR News, Kyiv. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.
KOSU is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.