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Biden ‘ready to respond directly’ in State of the Union if bombs are dropping in Ukraine as he speaks

Events on ground could prompt further changes in final moments before speech is delivered

Andrew Buncombe
Wednesday 02 March 2022 01:04 GMT
Protesters in Ukraine get run over as they attempt to stop Russian car

Joe Biden is reportedly ready to respond directly if bombs are falling in Ukraine during his State of the Union address.

Aware of the potential for a literal “split screen” moment when television networks could opt to broadcast his speech alongside what is happening in Ukraine, the president has been working to address whatever is the latest news from Kyiv, or other cities.

State of the Union live coverage

“The 9pm ET speech will occur around the same time that shelling and strikes typically begin in the early morning hours in Ukraine,” CNN said on Tuesday, ahead of the president’s second address to both chambers of Congress, and officially his first State of the Union.

“President Biden’s team has been closely monitoring the column of Russian forces that had been advancing toward Kyiv, and are aware of Russian warnings that it plans to carry out strikes on facilities in the Ukrainian capital.”

The network said a large portion of the president’s speech would address Russia and Ukraine, and his staff therefore hoped it would not appear out of touch, even as a column of Russian forces approaches the Ukraine capital.

But the White House is bracing for the prospect of renewed violence in Ukraine happening at the same time he is speaking, and believe they have written a speech that can reflect those realities.

“Biden has rehearsed portions of his speech over the past few days and is expected to continue today. As is typical, Biden and his team have been tweaking elements and wording of the speech today,” CNN added.

It said further tweaks could be made even as the event nears.

“Events on the ground in Ukraine could prompt further changes in the hours and moments before he delivers it, according to one official,” the network reported.

Ukraine is seven hours ahead of the east coast of the US and as Mr Biden begins his address in Washington DC, it will be 4am in Kyiv, on which Russian troops have been advancing.

Boris: Putin 'fatally underestimated' resolve of Ukraine

In the days since Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to attack Ukraine, a number of air strikes have been delivered as people are waking up.

Ahead of the address, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, urged Mr Biden to send a strong message to Russia, when he addresses not just the American public, but those watching around the world.

Speaking to CNN and Reuters, he said: “He is one of the leaders of the world and it is very important that the people of the United States understand (that) despite the fact that the war is in Ukraine ... it is [a] war for the values of democracy, freedom.”

Mr Zelensky has called on the US and other Nato countries to enforce a “no fly zone” over its borders, something the West has so far declined to do.

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