Moscow downplays significance of Biden’s visit to Kyiv

Feb 19, 2023, 6:55 PM | Updated: Feb 20, 2023, 9:30 am
President Joe Biden, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hug as they say goodbye at ...

President Joe Biden, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hug as they say goodbye at the Memorial Wall of Fallen Defenders of Ukraine in Russian-Ukrainian War, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 20, 2023. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

(Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Russian officials and state media downplayed President Joe Biden’s surprise visit to Ukraine on Monday, painting Kyiv as a U.S. puppet and maintaining Moscow’s forces will prevail despite Washington’s pledges to send more weapons to Ukraine.

Biden met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the Ukrainian capital in a defiant display of Western solidarity with a country still fighting what he called “a brutal and unjust war” days before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

The visit also came on the eve of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s scheduled state-of-the-nation address, which some in Russia expect to set the tone for the year ahead — including for Putin’s bogged-down campaign in Ukraine.

Biden spent more than five hours in Kyiv, consulting with Zelenskyy on next steps, honoring the country’s fallen soldiers and seeing U.S. embassy staff.

He announced an additional half-billion dollars in U.S. assistance — on top of the more than $50 billion already provided — for shells for howitzers, anti-tank missiles, air surveillance radars and other aid but no new advanced weaponry.

Russian state television covered the visit extensively, with anchors saying that it was clear that Biden “runs things” in Ukraine, which fits into the Kremlin’s narrative that Zelesnkyy’s government is a stooge of the U.S. administration.

A Russian-installed official in the occupied Zaporizhzhia region, Vladimir Rogov, was quoted by Russia’s state news RIA Novosti news agency as saying that Zelenskyy “looked like a servant next to Biden.”

Other commentators noted that Biden might seek re-election in 2024 and said his visit to Kyiv kicked off his campaign.

“Biden in Kyiv started his election campaign in the most heroic surroundings in order to prove to everyone that he can still ‘do it just like in the good old days’,” senior Russian lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev said in a Telegram post, adding that “Kyiv was left with no choice by to try and drive people to the senseless slaughter as part of Biden’s election campaign.”

Pro-Kremlin pundits on state TV also alleged that Biden received security guarantees from Moscow ahead of the visit. U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that the U.S. government notified Moscow of Biden’s visit to Kyiv shortly before his departure from Washington “for deconfliction purposes” in an effort to avoid any miscalculation that could bring the two nuclear-armed nations into direct conflict.

“Everyone knows that if Russia said that it wouldn’t hit Kyiv during a visit of some statesmen there, it means this will never happen, because we are the ones who keep their word, those who are on the side of the good and the civilized,” pro-Kremlin political analyst Sergei Markov said in a political talk show on state Russia 1 TV channel.

The deputy head of Russia’s Security Council and former president, Dmitry Medvedev, in a post on the Telegram messaging app also claimed that Biden had received “safety guarantees.”

Medvedev said Biden “pledged allegiance to the neo-Nazi regime” — as Kremlin officials refer to Ukraine’s government — and promised it more weapons, but the millions of people leaving Ukraine provide an answer “to the question of who the future belongs to.”

And state TV journalist Andrei Medvedev in a Telegram post simply stated: “Will this visit influence the final outcome of the war? No. Absolutely not,” although admitting that it would influence “the course of the hostilities at the moment and morale of Ukrainian citizens.”

Political analyst Tatyana Stanovaya said the Kremlin will view Biden’s visit as “yet one more piece of evidence that the U.S. has completely bet on Russia’s strategic defeat in the war, and that the war itself has irrevocably turned into a war between Russia and the West.”

Stanovaya said Putin’s state-of-the-nation speech on Tuesday “was expected to be very hawkish, aimed at defiantly breaking off relations with the West,” but after Biden’s visit to Kyiv, “additional edits can be made to make it even harsher.”


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Moscow downplays significance of Biden’s visit to Kyiv