First Lady Jill Biden makes unexpected trip to Ukraine

At a converted school that now serves as temporary housing for displaced citizens, Biden met with Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska, who has not been seen in public since the war began on February 24.

“I wanted to come on Mother’s Day,” Biden told his Ukrainian counterpart, the two women seated at a small table in a classroom of a former school that is now a source of temporary housing for Ukrainians. displaced, including 48 children. “We thought it was important to show the people of Ukraine that this war must end. And this war was brutal.” Biden added, “The people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine.”

Zelenska, who at the start of the Russian invasion sent a letter to Biden, has exchanged correspondence with her American counterpart in recent weeks, US officials told CNN.

“First of all, I would like to thank you for a very brave act,” Zelenska said, speaking to Biden through an interpreter. “Because we understand what it takes for the first lady of the United States to come here during a war where military actions happen every day, where aerial sirens happen every day, even today. We We all feel your support and we all feel the leadership of the President of the United States, but we would like to emphasize that Mother’s Day is a very symbolic day for us, because we also feel your love and support during such an important day. “

The meeting of the two women included a bilateral behind closed doors, which lasted about an hour and took place in what was a school before the war. The building has been turned into a shelter, a collaboration between the Ukrainian government and the International Organization for Migration, the UN migration agency. Dozens of internally displaced people now live in the building, on a leafy property near downtown Uzhhorod.

Biden, who is three days into a four-day visit to Europe to spend time with refugee families in Romania and Slovakia, traveled about 15 miles to western Ukraine from the Slovakian border town from Vysne Nemecke to Uzhhorod.
The first lady is the latest high-profile American and the first member of President Joe Biden’s family to visit the war-torn country in recent weeks. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited Kyiv last month; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was there last Saturday.

The first lady has spent the past two days in Europe meeting with aid organizations and government officials in Romania and Slovakia, as well as interacting with displaced Ukrainians in both countries, focusing primarily on health and the emotional well-being of women and children.

Biden’s visit to Ukraine is the first time a US First Lady has visited a war zone since Laura Bush made a secret 10-hour visit to Afghanistan in 2008. Bush made her first visit to the country, an active combat zone, in 2005. Bush’s two visits focused on his concern and support for Afghan women.

As Second Lady in 2010, Jill Biden accompanied Vice President Joe Biden on a trip to Baghdad, Iraq during the July 4 holiday.


cnn

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