Jill Biden and Justin Trudeau go to Ukraine in show of West’s resolve
By Marc Santora and Matthew Mpoke Bigg
In high-profile display of solidarity with Ukraine on the eve of a key Russian military holiday, Jill Biden, the first lady, made an unannounced visit to western Ukraine on Sunday, hours before President Joe Biden and other Group of 7 leaders were scheduled to meet virtually with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Canada’s leader, Justin Trudeau, also made an unannounced visit, traveling to view the devastation in the Kyiv suburb of Irpin.
The events served to demonstrate the depth of support for Ukraine by the United States and other nations in the face of Russia’s invasion, on a day when officials feared that dozens of people had been killed in a Russian airstrike that leveled a school in a village in eastern Ukraine, where fighting has intensified.
Moscow’s forces have renewed their assault in the east as they scramble to show progress before Monday, when Russia marks its annual May 9 holiday commemorating the Soviet victory against Nazi Germany in 1945. President Vladimir Putin has turned the day into a quasi-religious demonstration of military might, but an apparent Russian pullback from around Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, was the latest sign of the struggles of Putin’s forces to gain ground.
Ukrainian forces have pressed a fierce counteroffensive in the east, bolstered by weapons supplied by the United States and other Western nations that have pledged billions of dollars in military aid to Kyiv.
Here are other developments:
— Ukrainian fighters defending a sprawling steel plant in the ruined city of Mariupol said the plant was still under bombardment by Russian forces and vowed never to surrender. Ukraine is working to get wounded soldiers and medics out of the plant, following the evacuation of all civilians Saturday.
— Some U.S. diplomats, who were ordered to leave Ukraine in the days before Russia invaded, have returned to the embassy in Kyiv. At the Canadian Embassy, Trudeau raised the Maple Leaf to mark its reopening.
— In congratulatory messages a day before the May 9 holiday, Putin praised the leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics — two Russia-backed breakaway territories in Ukraine — for their role in what he described as a continued fight against Nazism.
— The CIA director, William J. Burns, warned that Putin was convinced that “he cannot afford to lose,” raising the specter that his forces will escalate their attacks in Ukraine.