First Lady Jill Biden on Sunday made a surprise visit to Ukraine, where she held a Mother’s Day meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky’s wife Olena and expressed her support for the war-torn country.
“I wanted to come on Mother’s Day,” Biden told the Ukrainian first lady. “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.”
Biden, 70, traveled in secret to a small town in western Ukraine a few miles from a Slovakian village that borders the beleaguered nation.
In Uzhhorod, a town of about 100,000 people, the two presidential spouses sat across a table from one another in a small classroom and spoke in front of reporters before meeting in private.
As she arrived at the school, Biden, who was wearing a Mother’s Day corsage, hugged Olena Zelenska and handed her a mixed-flower bouquet, video posted on Twitter shows.
Zelenska thanked her American counterpart for her “courageous act.”
“We understand what it takes for the US first lady to come here during a war when military actions are taking place every day, where the air sirens are happening every day — even today,” she said.
Following their private meeting, the two joined a group of children who live at the school to make tissue-paper bears to give as Mother’s Day gifts.
The school where the two met has been converted to temporary housing for Ukrainian migrants who before the war lived elsewhere in the country.
The first lady on Sunday became the latest high-profile American to enter Ukraine during the nation’s more than two-month-old war with Russia — something President Biden has yet to do.
The president told reporters in April that he hasn’t decided if he will visit Ukraine himself, despite several world leaders including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently making the trip. The White House said last week that the president “would love to visit,” but that there are currently no plans for him to do so.