President Biden Visits Ukraine: How Officials Planned Top-Secret Trip to Kyiv
There was no hint of the drama to come when the president was seen enjoying a date night with the first lady at a DC restaurant Saturday night. Eight hours later at 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning, President Biden slipped out of the White House.
Details are emerging about the extraordinary planning that went into President Biden's top-secret visit to war-torn Ukraine.
There was no hint of the drama to come when the president was seen enjoying a date night with the first lady at a DC restaurant Saturday night.
Then, just eight hours later at 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning, President Biden slipped out of the White House under the cover of darkness.
His motorcade then made its way to Joint Base Andrews a few minutes later and by 4:15 he was in the air aboard an Air Force C-32.
The throng of staffers and journalists who would often accompany the president overseas to meet with a foreign dignitary was greatly reduced for this trip.
President Biden took just three staff members and two journalists.
Those journalists — a photographer and a print reporter — were asked to surrender their phones upon arriving at Joint Base Andrews as is common practice when traveling with the president on any unannounced trip.
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At the same time, the other members of the White House Press Corps were not only kept in the dark but given a briefing on Sunday morning that suggested President Biden was still in residence at the White House.
The aircraft, a modified Boeing 757, made a quick stop at a U.S. air base in Germany to refuel before continuing on to Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport near the Ukrainian border in Southern Poland.
President Biden then started the riskiest part of his journey as he traveled to Przemśl Glówny station in Krakow and boarded a train for the 10-hour trip to Kyiv.
He stepped off the train in Kyiv at 8 a.m. local time on Monday, where he was greeted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the first lady.
Clarissa Ward, who is on the ground in Kyiv for CNN, tells Inside Edition that while reporters were not given advance notice of President Biden's arrival, there were some indicators that a world leader would be visiting the city.
"We actually had soldiers arriving in the hotel telling us that we couldn't be out on balconies," Ward tells Inside Edition. "That we had to point our cameras away from the street, that we couldn't shoot any live reports."
Once on the ground the two leaders were seen chatting and showing no signs of panic as an air-raid siren went off at one point.
President Biden's trip comes approximately one year after Russian forces invaded Ukraine. It marks the first time in American history that a president has visited a war zone where the U.S, did not have an established military presence.
Details of the trip could not be reported until President Biden was back in Poland, where he headed to Warsaw as part of his previously announced visit to the country.
The decision to make the surprise trip to Ukraine ahead of his planned visit to Poland was made by the president just two days before his departure.
“He got a full presentation of a very good and very effective operational security plan," national security adviser Jake Sullivan said during a press briefing on Monday. "He heard that presentation, he was satisfied that the risk was manageable, and he ultimately made the determination."
Sullivan also said that Russia officials had been alerted to President Biden's visit before he departed on Sunday.
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