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Monday, March 27, 2023

Ukraine War: Discreet Motorcade & Night Train: Biden’s Secret Kiev Journey

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In a cloak-and-dagger operation, the US President travels to Kiev on a memorable visit. After his return, the details of the secret operation leak to the public.

When a US President travels abroad, security is usually so tight that entire cities come to a standstill. The probably most powerful man in the world usually travels with a huge entourage, his own armored limousine and a horde of security forces as well as many journalists.

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The visit of US President Joe Biden to the embattled Ukraine, which was kept secret until the end, was completely different. According to the only two journalists who were traveling with him, it was a very unusual presidential trip from Washington via Germany and Poland to Kiev.

Refuel in Ramstein

Biden left Andrews Air Force Base near the capital Washington in the early hours of Sunday morning (local time). He did not use the usual plane used by US presidents – the converted Boeing 747 known as Air Force One – but a smaller and therefore less conspicuous machine.

On the way to Poland, the plane landed at the US air force base in Ramstein, Germany, to refuel, reported the journalists traveling with him after Biden’s visit to Ukraine ended on Monday evening. The destination of the flight was the Polish city of Rzeszów near the Polish-Ukrainian border.

From there, in the evening, Biden drove in a convoy of SUVs, vans and other vehicles to the train station in the city of Przemyśl, around 90 kilometers away – and without any blue lights, so as to attract as little attention as possible. In Przemyśl, his vehicle drove right up to the wagon, which allowed him to quickly – and probably largely unnoticed – board his train. According to journalists traveling with the train, the train had about eight carriages, many of which were occupied by security personnel. At around 10 p.m. the train crossed the border into Ukraine.

Five hour visit

The train arrived in Kiev around 8 a.m. on Monday morning (local time). “It’s good to be back in Kiev,” Biden reportedly said after getting off. From the train station, Biden was then taken by a convoy, which also included armored vehicles, to the Presidential Palace in Kiev, where he was received by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. After his tight schedule of visits, Biden left shortly after 1:00 p.m. – about five hours later – by train towards Poland.

For security reasons, the details of Biden’s trip were only announced late Monday evening, after Biden had already left the airport near Rzeszów for Warsaw. Biden is visiting the Polish capital this Tuesday and Wednesday for bilateral talks, a speech marking the anniversary of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and a meeting with NATO’s eastern flank states.

Unusual decision

The White House emphasized on Monday that Biden’s trip to an active war zone – despite long and meticulous preparation – was unusual given the security risks. Visits by former US presidents to Afghanistan or Iraq, for example, which were kept secret until the end, were easier because the US military was there for protection and logistics – unlike in Ukraine.

However, the US government had at least informed the war opponents of Ukraine, which also repeatedly attacks Kiev with rockets, in advance. The White House said Russia had been informed of the travel plans a few hours in advance in order to avoid an unwanted escalation. The Kremlin later confirmed that it had been informed in advance.

Source: Stern

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