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US diplomats visit Kyiv as Jill Biden meets Ukraine’s first lady in unannounced visit

First Lady Jill Biden with Delaware Army National Guardsmen at Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base. (First Lady/Twitter)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. diplomats returned to Kyiv on May 8 for a visit to commemorate Victory in Europe Day as U.S. first lady Jill Biden made an unannounced visit to western Ukraine.

A senior State Department official said the visit by Charge d’Affaires Kristina Kvien and her team did not signal the reopening of the embassy, though the United States has promised to do so.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on May 8 and informed him that a small group led by Kvien “traveled to Kyiv to conduct diplomatic engagement in advance of the planned resumption of Embassy Kyiv operations,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

U.S. diplomats left ahead of Russia’s invasion out of security concerns but began returning to the western city of Lviv last month.

U.S. first lady Jill Biden met earlier with Olena Zelenska, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s wife, at a school that has been turned into transitional housing for Ukrainian migrants. Biden’s Mother’s Day visit to Ukraine was the latest high-profile by an American since Russia launched its invasion on February 24.

“I wanted to come on Mother’s Day,” Biden told Zelenska. “I thought it was important to show the Ukrainian people that this war has to stop and this war has been brutal and that the people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine.”

The two women met in a small classroom after Biden traveled to the town of Uzhhorod, about a 10-minute drive from a Slovakian village that borders Ukraine.

They sat across a table from one another and talked as reporters looked on and then met in private. Zelenska and her children have been staying at an undisclosed location for their safety.

Zelenska thanked Biden for her “courageous act” and said, “We understand what it takes for the U.S. first lady to come here during a war when military actions are taking place every day, where the air sirens are happening every day — even today.”

The visit lasted about two hours.

Kuleba said later that he welcomed Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt on May 8 and expressed gratitude for Norway’s continued support.

“We share a conviction that Russia’s war poses a threat not only to Ukraine but also to Norway and other European states. We counter it together,” he said on Twitter.