Zelenskyy’s surprise visit to US was in the making for several months – media reports

22 December 2022, 04:37 PM
Office of the President of Ukraine (Photo:Office of the President of Ukraine)

Office of the President of Ukraine (Photo:Office of the President of Ukraine)

The idea of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy making a daring wartime trip to the United States was in the works for some time before the surprise visit was announced just hours ahead of his arrival, the Associated Press news agency reported on Dec. 22.

According to the AP, during an October summit in Zagreb, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi discussed with her counterpart in the Ukrainian parliament the prospect of Zelenskyy addressing the U.S. Congress.

Biden administration officials had similarly for months talked with Ukraine about a Zelenskyy visit to the White House, hoping for one before the year’s end to send an unmistakable signal of support ahead of a brutal winter that could deepen Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s assault.

Video of day

In previous phone calls, Zelenskyy had indicated to U.S. President Joe Biden and other senior officials that the United States was the first country he wanted to visit when the time was right for him to travel. So in a Dec. 11 phone call between the two leaders, Biden repeated the invitation. This time, Zelenskyy told Biden, it was the right time to visit.

Once the wheels of planning started to roll, Zelenskyy’s 10-hour visit – which packed in an Oval Office meeting with Biden, a joint news conference at the White House and an address to a largely supportive U.S. Congress – came together quickly.

The news agency stressed that after the two presidents discussed the trip on Dec. 11, the White House extended a formal invite on Dec. 14, according to the senior administration official. Zelenskyy accepted the invitation on Dec. 16, and the visit was confirmed two days later, at which point White House officials notified Pelosi’s office of the Ukrainian leader’s travel plans.

What came about Dec. 21 was an elaborately executed plan by U.S. and Ukrainian officials to swiftly and safely bring Zelenskyy to Washington.

AP reported that the Ukrainian president crossed into Poland early on Dec. 21, arriving at a train station in Przemysl. Accompanied by the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, Zelenskyy was transported in a U.S. Embassy vehicle to an airport in Rzeszów, where he boarded a nonstop flight that landed at Joint Base Andrews shortly after noon on Dec. 21.

Carrying Zelenskyy to Andrews was a U.S. Air Force jet – a government plane typically used for Cabinet secretaries and other dignitaries below the president and vice president.

The White House didn’t publicly announce the impending Zelenskyy visit until 1 a.m. on Dec. 21, waiting until they felt Zelenskyy was safely out of Ukraine.

Once Zelenskyy landed, Secret Service protection kicked in, as is typically done for visiting heads of state. The senior administration official said the U.S. consulted closely with Zelenskyy on his security, and that the Ukrainian president felt it was sufficient for him to briefly travel to the United States.

Meanwhile, Pelosi, who had travelled the world in recent months in a ferocious defense of Ukraine, had also been planting the seeds for months for a Zelenskyy address to the U.S. Congress.

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Google News

Ukraine Today
Fresh daily newsletter covering the top headlines and developments in Ukraine
Daily at 9am EST
Show more news