Fact Check

Did Russia Guarantee Biden's Safety During Surprise Visit to Ukraine?

That's the message some close to Putin's inner circle were pushing, at least.

Published Feb. 21, 2023

Russia guaranteed Joe Biden's safety before his surprise visit to Kyiv on Feb. 20, 2023.

While the U.S. did notify Russia of Biden's travel to Ukraine "some hours before" Biden's departure, officials in both countries deny that any agreement of any kind was reached.

On Feb. 20, 2023, U.S. President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv days before the one-year anniversary of Russia's full scale invasion of Ukraine, as reported by The Associated Press:

Biden spent more than five hours in the Ukrainian capital, consulting with Zelenskyy on next steps, honoring the country's fallen soldiers and seeing U.S. embassy staff in the besieged country. Altogether he was on Ukrainian territory for about 23 hours, traveling by train from and back to Poland.

Following the visit, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan participated in a press conference. He was asked by CBS News reporter Nancy Cordes if the U.S. "gave the Russians any kind of heads up that the President was going to be in Kyiv." In response to that question, Sullivan confirmed that the U.S. provided last minute notice to the Kremlin:

We did notify the Russians that President Biden would be traveling to Kyiv.  We did so some hours before his departure for de-confliction purposes.

And because of the sensitive nature of those communications, I won't get into how they responded or what the precise nature of our message was, but I can confirm that we provided that notification.

This disclosure led long-time Putin ally, former Russian Prime Minister, and current Deputy Chairman of the Security Council Dmitry Medvedev to claim, in remarks covered by the Russian state-owned TASS news service, that Russia provided safety guarantees to Biden prior to his arrival in Kyiv. "Biden, having previously received security guarantees, finally went to Kiev," Medvedev wrote on Telegram. 

That claim was quickly repeated and disseminated, according to the Independent, by other propagandists within Russia. In a news conference held the following day, on Feb. 21, Voice of America reporter Patsy Widakuswara asked Sullivan if the U.S. had received any safety guarantees when the U.S. notified the Russians of Biden's trip. In response, he said that no such agreement had been reached: 

They did not respond, other than to acknowledge receipt of the notification.  So, there was no exchange.  It was mere notification and acknowledgement of receipt. … We conveyed that information.  They acknowledged receipt.  End of story.

That same day, Russia's security service, the FSB, apparently confirmed that no agreement regarding Biden's safety had been reached. As covered by TASS: 

Russia gave no security guarantees to US President Joe Biden during his visit to Kiev, FSB director Alexander Bortnikov said on Tuesday [Feb. 21].

"Indeed, the United States notified Russia about Biden's visit to Kiev - via diplomatic channels. But we gave no guarantees of his security," he said in an interview with the Shot Telegram channel.

Because both the head of Russia's FSB and Biden's National Security Advisor deny any agreement was reached, Snopes ranks the claim "False." 


"Biden given No Security Guarantees by Russia during His Visit to Kiev — FSB Director." TASS, https://tass.com/society/1579733. Accessed 21 Feb. 2023.

"Medvedev Says Biden Received Security Guarantees before Going to Kiev." TASS, https://tass.com/defense/1578883. Accessed 21 Feb. 2023.

"On-the-Record Press Call by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan." The White House, 21 Feb. 2023, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2023/02/21/on-the-record-press-call-by-national-security-advisor-jake-sullivan/.

"On-the-Record Press Call by Senior Administration Officials on President Biden's Trip to Ukraine." The White House, 20 Feb. 2023, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/02/20/on-the-record-press-call-by-senior-administration-officials-on-president-bidens-trip-to-ukraine/.

Propagandists Claim Russia Offered Biden 'Security Guarantee' for Trip to Kyiv. www.independent.co.uk, https://www.independent.co.uk/tv/news/ukraine-war-russia-biden-kyiv-b2286523.html. Accessed 21 Feb. 2023.

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.