The White House warned the Kremlin before President Joe Biden made his surprise trip to Kyiv Monday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said.
‘We did notify the Russians that President Biden would be traveling to Kyiv. We did so some hours before his departure for deconfliction purposes,’ Sullivan told reporters on a call Monday after Biden departed from Ukraine’s capital.
Biden left Washington in secret at 4:15 a.m. on Sunday, flying to Poland and then taking a 10-hour train ride so he could stand alongside Ukrainian President Zelensky four days before the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion.
Sullivan didn’t give details on what the U.S. specifically said to the Russians.
‘And because of the sensitive nature of those communications I won’t get into how they responded or what the precise nature of our message was, but I can confirm that we provided that notification,’ he said on the call.
President Joe Biden (center) poses for a photo with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (right) and Olena Zelenska (left) outside Mariinsky Palace in Kyiv, Ukraine on Monday
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters that the Kremlin was informed of Biden’s travels to Kyiv prior to his arrival. Russian President Vladimir Putin is photographed Thursday
President Joe Biden (left) walks alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (right) outside of St. Michael’s Gold-Domed Cathedral during Monday’s surprise trip to Kyiv
The White House was also tight-lipped on Biden’s means of travel.
The New York Times reported that Biden crossed the border by rail.
Beyond that, White House officials wouldn’t even say what kind of plane the president flew to Europe.
Air Force One is the call sign of the president’s plane – and so it does not specifically mean that the president traveled on the recognizable blue and white Boeing 747s he’d usually take on an overseas trip.
‘We’ll hold off on going into real detail about the various elements of the trip and modalities and modes of transport and the like until basically we get the green light from the security folks to be able to share all of that,’ Sullivan said.
‘We will share it, but we just want to make sure we do so once we feel that it’s operationally safe to do so,’ he added.
An American military plane was parked at the Warsaw airport around lunchtime Sunday.
President Joe Biden (left) and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (right) at Mariinsky Palace during Monday’s trip
President Joe Biden (left) and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (right) walk past St. Mikhailovsky Cathedral in Kyiv on Monday
President Joe Biden (left) signs a guestbook at Mariinsky Palace on Monday as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (right) looks on
Even among the ranks of American government, the trip was a closely guarded secret.
Those involved in the planning came from the White House, the chief of staff’s office, the National Security Council, the White House Military Office, the Pentagon, the Secret Service and the intelligence community.
‘Only a handful of people in each of these buildings was involved in the planning for operational security,’ Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer told reporters.
The trip was made more difficult with no American military personnel on the ground in Ukraine and only a slim U.S. embassy staff.
‘The United States also has a very light embassy footprint compared to the massive operations in Afghanistan and Iraq during wartime visits by presidents to those places,’ Finer said.
Additionally, the president traveled with an ‘extremely small’ party, Finer said, consisting of a handful of his closest aides, including Sullivan, a small medical team, security and two reporters.
The two reporters – a newspaper reporter and a photographer – had their phones taken away from them as they departed.
The rest of Biden’s press pool – which usually consists of around a dozen journalists – was left in Washington.
For days, the White House had publicly said the trip to mark the Ukraine war anniversary was to be strictly to Warsaw, Poland, where the president is scheduled to meet with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda and the leaders of the Bucharest Nine nations.
That part of the trip is expected to go on as planned.