Jill Biden makes surprise visit to Ukrainian first lady

Ms Biden's unannounced meeting Olena Zelenska makes her the highest profile US figure to visit the war-torn country

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American First Lady Jill Biden made an unannounced trip to western Ukraine on Sunday, meeting her Ukrainian counterpart Olena Zelenska and some of those displaced during Russia’s invasion of the country.

Dr Biden’s two-hour visit was shrouded in secrecy. She travelled overland to Uzhhorod, a Ukrainian town about a 10-minute drive from a Slovakian village along the countries’ shared border.

She met Ms Zelenska at a school sheltering people displaced by the conflict and presented her with a bouquet to mark Mother’s Day, which the US celebrated on May 8 this year.

“I wanted to come on Mother’s Day,” Dr Biden told Ms 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.”

The two met in a small classroom of the school. It is housing 163 Ukrainians, including 47 children.

Ms Zelenska, who is staying with her children at an undisclosed location, thanked the American for her “courageous act” in visiting a nation upended by the conflict.

“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.

Dr Biden, the wife of US President Joe Biden, is on a four-day visit to Eastern Europe to highlight the war raging in Ukraine.

She has met refugees and US service people in Romania and Slovakia during the trip.

The UN says 5.8 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on February 24.

Updated: October 13, 2022, 11:02 PM
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