Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky left Ukraine to attend a Saturday conference in Munich despite US warnings of a Russian invasion.
US officials cited by CNN said they were concerned Zelensky leaving the country could open the door for Russia to make false claims that he has fled.
While officials did not explicitly ask Zelensky not to make the trip, those concerns have been communicated, one of the officials said according to the network.
US President Joe Biden suggested on Friday “it may not be the wise choice” for Zelensky to attend the annual Munich Security Conference, “but it’s his decision.”
Without referring to Biden’s questioning of whether it would be wise to leave Kyiv, Zelensky’s office issued a statement insisting the situation in Ukraine’s east “remains under full control.”
Zelensky is set to meet with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and US Vice President Kamala Harris, his office said.
“Vladimir Zelensky expects concrete agreements concerning the delivery to our country of additional military and financial support,” his office said, adding that he would return to Kyiv later Saturday.
In a speech at the conference, Zelensky condemned “a policy of appeasement” towards Moscow.
“For eight years, Ukraine has been a shield. For eight years, Ukraine has been holding back one of the greatest armies in the world,” Zelensky said.
He demanded “clear, feasible timeframes” for Ukraine to join the US-led NATO military alliance — a prospect that Moscow has said would be a red line for its security.
But he said he was willing to meet with Vladimir Putin, to find out “what the Russian president wants.”
Harris told Zelensky at the start of their meeting that the situation was “a decisive moment in history” and “any threat to your country we take seriously.”
Zelensky responded: “We clearly understand what is going on. This is our land. We want peace.”
He also said he needs Western allies to take “specific steps,” alluding to Ukraine’s requests for even more military and economic assistance.
Zelensky also noted that with Russian troops at his country’s borders, Ukraine’s army is in fact “defending all of Europe.”
Biden told reporters Friday that he believes Putin has decided to invade in the coming days, taking military action that could go far beyond the disputed Donbas region in eastern Ukraine and include the capital of Kyiv.