U.S. First Lady Jill Biden on Friday thanked U.S. soldiers deployed in Romania as a buffer against Russian aggression as she began a four-day trip to Europe to see first-hand the refugee crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
After flying from Washington in the evening, the first lady arrived at Mihail Kogalniceau Air Base in Romania, near the Black Sea, in time to help serve dinner to US soldiers stationed there. Some 1,600 of the several thousand soldiers deployed by President Joe Biden to eastern Europe before the Russia-Ukraine war were sent to the base, which is about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Ukrainian border.
Jill Biden served mac and cheese and baked potatoes for the soldiers — and encouraged them not to forget the vegetables — before speaking to small groups of soldiers at tables in the dining room. She brought bottles of ketchup for the troops, responding to a shortage of the condiment on base.
“I know it’s hard on your families,”she told a soldier, alluding to his own experience when his son Beau Biden was in Iraq.
For weeks, Jill Biden has been absorbed in the news coming out of Ukraine, by the bombings and the scenes of “parents crying over the bodies of their children in the streets,” she said in a recent speech.
Now, she is using her second solo trip abroad to examine Ukraine’s refugee crisis in person by visiting Romania and Slovakia, where she will spend Mother’s Day with displaced families in a small Slovakian village on the Ukrainian border.
“It is very important to the president and to me that the Ukrainian people know that we are with them,” Jill Biden told reporters traveling with her on Thursday night. Earlier in the week, she said she wants refugees to know that “your resilience inspires me.”
NATO members Romania and Slovakia border Ukraine and have accepted some of the millions of displaced people, mostly women and children, who fled after the Russian invasion in late February, which sparked Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since the World War II.
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