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US first Lady Jill Biden pays surprise visit to Ukraine

Newsman: United State’s  First lady Jill Biden made a surprise visit to Ukraine Sunday and met with the country’s first lady, Olena Zelenska to show U.S. support for the embattled nation as Russia presses its punishing war in the eastern regions.

 She spent about two hours in Ukraine, visiting the city of Uzhhorod, in Zakarpattia Oblast in the southwest corner of the country.Zelenska, the wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has been in hiding along with their children since the beginning of the war.This was the first time since the war began that Zelenska had emerged in public.

Jill Biden and Olena Zelenska met at a school that has been converted into a shelter for internally displaced Ukrainians.

Zelenska stepped out of a black SUV guarded by a Ukrainian soldier. Biden handed her flowers, and the two hugged.

They then met in a small side room behind closed doors for more than an hour.

When traveling press were briefly brought in, Biden said, “I wanted to come on Mother’s Day. We thought it was important to show the Ukrainian people that this war has to stop, and this war has been brutal. And the people of the U.S. stand with the people of Ukraine.”

“We feel it,” Zelenska responded.

“First of all, I would like to thank you for a very courageous act,” Zelenska continued. “Because we understand what it takes for the U.S. first lady to come here during a war when the military actions are taking place every day, where the air sirens are happening every day even today.”

“We all feel your support, and we all feel the leadership of the U.S. president, but we would like to note that the Mother’s Day is a very symbolic day for us because we also feel your love and support during such an important day.”

Biden had previously exchanged correspondence with Zelenska, according to U.S. officials.

The first lady’s visit to Ukraine was not announced ahead of time, and was not on Biden’s public schedule. Biden’s motorcade was pared down for the drive into Ukraine, and several staffers (and some traveling reporters) stayed behind in Slovakia.

It was the first time a U.S. first lady has traveled solo to a combat zone since 2015 then the First Lady  Michelle Obama visited Qatar’s al-Udeid Air Base. Biden crossed the Slovakia-Ukraine border after a visit to the Slovakia side of a border crossing in Vysne Nemecke.

Biden spent about two hours in Ukraine, traveling by vehicle to the town of Uzhhorod, about a 10-minute drive from a Slovakian border village where she had toured a border processing facility. “I wanted to come on Mother’s Day,” the U.S. first lady told Zelenska. “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.”

President Joe Biden said when he visited Poland in March that he was disappointed he could not cross the border and go into Ukraine to see conditions “firsthand” but that he was not allowed, likely due to security reasons. The White House said as recently as last week that the president “would love to visit” but there were no plans for him to do so at this time.

Jill Biden’s visit followed recent stops in the war-torn country by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress, and a joint trip by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.

Biden is on a four-day visit to Eastern Europe to highlight U.S. support for Ukrainian refugees and for allied countries such as Romania and Slovakia that are providing a safe haven for them.

She spent Friday and Saturday in Romania, visiting with U.S. troops and meeting with Ukrainian refugee mothers and children.

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