Photo/Illutration Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visits the Kyiv suburb of Bucha on March 21. (Provided by Cabinet Public Affairs Office)

The lid was nearly blown off of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s secret visit to Ukraine before he stepped foot in Europe.

High-ranking government officials provided the background and planning of Kishida’s surprise March 21 meeting in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Around 8 p.m. on March 20, Kishida left the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi after his meeting earlier that day with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Only a few officials accompanied Kishida to one of many rear exits to board a bus that left the hotel.

But almost immediately, officials in the bus became worried at the sight of three individuals holding umbrellas and apparently keeping an eye on what was taking place outside the hotel.

They appeared to be reporters, and if they caught wind that Kishida and his contingent were secretly leaving the hotel, the plan to visit Ukraine might have gone up in smoke.

But the individuals did not appear to notice that the Japanese prime minister was in the bus.

The bus went to Palam Air Force Station where a charter jet was standing by.

According to government sources and the Flightradar24 website, which provides live tracking of flights around the world, Kishida used a Bombardier Global 7500 business jet for his eventual return to Japan from India.

The jet departed New Delhi at 8:56 p.m., flew for seven and a half hours, and landed at Rzeszow International Airport in southeastern Poland at 11:41 p.m., local time, on March 20.

Using a number of cars, Kishida and his contingent went to a train station in Przemysl, a Polish city near the Ukrainian border.

A TV camera crew for a Japanese broadcaster caught the contingent getting into the cars.

"They filmed us so we should begin contacting lawmakers back in Japan,” Kishida said.

There was concern that not informing Diet members of the Ukraine visit beforehand could raise criticism. So high-ranking ruling coalition officials were called and told about the trip.

But once those calls were made, all cellphones, including Kishida’s, were turned off to avoid having electronic signals give away their location.

The group reached Kyiv on the afternoon of March 21. Kishida specifically asked to visit Bucha, a suburb where many civilians were massacred by Russian troops during their temporary occupation.

Kishida was visibly upset when local officials explained what had taken place there.

“I feel strong anger,” he said. “Japan will continue to provide the maximum level of support for efforts to restore peace to Ukraine.”

According to associates of Kishida, planning for the Ukraine trip began soon after U.S. President Joe Biden made his own surprise visit to Kyiv on Feb. 20.

At that time, Kishida was already scheduled to visit India.

In late February, Kishida gave orders to begin planning, saying in no uncertain terms: “Coordinate a visit to Kyiv while taking every precaution for security and maintaining secrecy. If that cannot be done, there is no need for the Foreign Ministry.”

Only a few officials in the prime minister’s office, the Foreign Ministry and National Security Secretariat were involved in the planning.

Detailed security measures were finally compiled around March 10.

(This article was written by Keishi Nishimura, Tamiyuki Kihara and Anri Takahashi.)