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How Zelenskiy Made His High-Security Train-to-Plane Journey to Washington


DECEMBER 22, 2022

US President Joe Biden greets Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine’s president, center, outside the White House in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. Biden will unveil nearly $2 billion in assistance and announce moves to deliver a Patriot missile battery to help Ukraine bolster its defenses this winter.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy traveled by train and plane under high security, landing outside Washington on Wednesday to meet with President Joe Biden and address US lawmakers.

On Wednesday morning, Zelenskiy arrived by train in the Polish city of Przemysl, on the border with Ukraine, accompanied by US Ambassador to Kyiv Bridget Brink, the TVN24 news channel reported on its website.

Polish TV footage showed the Ukrainian leader walking down the platform flanked by men in military fatigues before getting into a black Chevy Suburban. The railway trip into Poland was a necessity because Russia is contesting Ukraine’s airspace, making sometimes lengthy train trips a requirement for visits into and out of Zelenskiy’s country.

Then, Zelenskiy flew from nearby Rzeszow-Jesionka Airport, the key Polish hub for transporting aid to Ukraine. He landed on a US government plane at Joint Base Andrews, outside of Washington, at midday local time, and then went to Blair House, a traditional spot for visiting dignitaries. The Ukrainian flag was flying there. He made the very brief trip by motorcade to the White House for his meeting with Biden.

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 21: U.S. President Joe Biden (R) welcomes President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to the White House on December 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. Zelensky is meeting with President Biden on his first known trip outside of Ukraine since the Russian invasion began, and the two leaders are expected to discuss continuing military aid. Zelensky will reportedly address a joint meeting of Congress in the evening. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Federal Aviation Administration reported no unusual air-traffic issues along the East Coast on its website. Security measures restricting flights can occur near where the president or other dignitaries are attending events on the ground, but their en-route movements rarely cause disruptions.

Although the US has extensive experience transporting Pentagon and State Department officials into war zones such as Afghanistan, those trips are usually kept secret for security reasons until the official touches down — or even completes the visit.

By contrast, Zelenskiy’s visit to the US, his first trip abroad since Russia’s invasion in February, was widely publicized — and confirmed by the White House and the Ukrainian president — while he was en route.

It wasn’t the first risky travel the Ukrainian leader has undertaken to rally support in his country and beyond.

On Tuesday, he visited the town of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region, where fierce fighting has gone on for months. Zelenskiy accepted a Ukrainian flag from soldiers and gave what turned out to be a signal of the trip abroad he was about to take.

“Our fighters gave me our flag and asked to pass it on to those whose decisions are very important for Ukraine, for all our warriors.” Zelenskiy said. He returned to Kyiv, the capital, before heading to Poland and on to Washington.

Courtesy/Source: Bloomberg