kraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska has issued an impassioned condemnation of Russia for the “mass murder” of the country’s civilians.
In an open letter, she focused on the tragic number of child casualties – mentioning three victims of Russia’s brutal invasion by name.
Ms Zelenska said her country wanted peace, but that it would defend its borders and identity against Russia’s devastating onslaught.
Her whereabouts are currently unknown, as alongside her husband Volodymyr Zelensky, she is thought to be a target by Russia forces.
“Perhaps the most terrifying and devastating of this invasion are the child casualties,” she said.
“Eight-year-old Alice who died on the streets of Okhtyrka while her grandfather tried to protect her.
“Or Polina from Kyiv, who died in the shelling with her parents.
“14-year-old Arseniy was hit in the head by wreckage, and could not be saved because an ambulance could not get to him on time because of intense fires.
“When Russia says that it is ‘not waging war against civilians,’ I call out the names of these murdered children first.”
In the English-language statement published on the website of the Ukrainian presidency on Tuesday, the 44-year-old said Russian forces had underestimated the resolve of the Ukrainian people.
“The aggressor, Putin, thought that he would unleash blitzkrieg on Ukraine,” she said, in what she called a letter to global media.
“But he underestimated our country, our people, and their patriotism. Ukrainians, regardless of political views, native language, beliefs, and nationalities, stand in unparalleled unity.”
On Tuesday, her husband President Volodymyr Zelensky received a standing ovation in the House of Commons when he made a virtual address, channelling Churchill as he vowed to “fight in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets”.
He has repeatedly appealed to allies to help close off the skies of Ukraine from Russian bombardment, a plea which was echoed by the First Lady.
“We need those in power to close our sky!” she said. “Close the sky, and we will manage the war on the ground ourselves.”
The statement ends with an appeal for media to keep showing the truth about the war, which Russian state-run media has labelled a “special military operation”.
“If we don’t stop Putin, who threatens to start a nuclear war, there will be no safe place in the world for any of us,” she said.
More than 2 million refugees are now estimated to have fled the conflict, while the UN estimates at least 474 civilians have been killed as a result of the war. The true figure could be significantly higher.