Britain must become a world leader in bringing Russia to justice for its ‘thousands of crimes’, Ukraine’s First Lady told MPs and Peers in a speech delivered in Parliament today.
Olena Zelenska, who appealed to the British government and public not to forget their desperate struggle over the Christmas period, compared Russia’s missile bombardment of Ukraine to the Nazis’ pummelling of English cities in World War II.
The wife of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was in London to speak on preventing sexual violence, was given a standing ovation by those in attendance, including Boris Johnson, Penny Mordaunt and Sir Keir Starmer.
In a powerful address held in one of Parliament’s committee rooms, she said: ‘Ukrainians are now going through a terror which will resonate with you. Your island survived the air raids which were identical to those that Russia uses now to put us on our knees.
Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska receives applause as she addresses British lawmakers in London on November 29, 2022
‘We are hearing sirens every day identical to those heard by the British generations who did not surrender. We will not surrender – but victory is not the only thing we need. We need justice. I came to you for justice, because justice will lead to the end of this war, just as it led to the end of that war.
‘It was impossible that the Londoners and the inhabitants of Coventry, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester or Sheffield would accept that those aggressors would avoid the courts – we are imagining the same. We need justice for our people who are suffering from the missiles.’
Accusing Russia of committing war crimes – including sexual violence – she described how the youngest Ukrainian raped by invading soldiers was just four years old, and the oldest 85.
Mrs Zelenska, who met the Prime Minister’s wife Akshata Murty in Downing Street on Monday and last night opened the ‘Map of Russian War Crimes in Ukraine’ exhibit in Parliament, then asked the government to take the initiative and help enact justice.
‘We have documented thousands of crimes, including sexual violence,’ she said in front of both a Union Jack and a Ukrainian flag.
‘We do not know how many boys and girls and women and men became the victims of torture and violence brought by the Russian occupiers.
‘But it’s important to understand that Russia brought the systematic violence.
‘That’s why I’m addressing the United Kingdom. 80 years ago in London, a document was signed that helped to define history. The declaration was signed which recorded the will to make accountable those who were the perpetrators of the war crimes.
‘Ukraine, Europe and the world need that type of justice now – and it can be started in London again, because we know that justice is one of the benchmarks of British life.
Olena Zelenska addresses MPs in the Houses of Parliament in London on November 29, 2022
he Prime Minister’s wife Akshata Murthy welcomes the Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska to 10 Downing St., where they met a group of primary school children who were making Christmas decorations
‘Justice, like victory, is not possible without allies. We need to unite the world community, just as it happened in January 1942, to support the special tribunal against the aggression of Russia against Ukraine.
‘I’m asking you a small favour to become the world leader in the justice efforts.
‘I believe that London can give this decisive impetus so that the world can become better, fairer, thanks to you.’
Earlier, Mrs Zelenska had appealed to both the British government and general public to not lose focus of the importance of Ukrainian freedom and moral values.
Thanking the country for their strong support throughout the invasion, she hoped that Christmas would not make people ‘forget about our tragedy’.
She told the BBC: ‘Ukrainians are very tired of this war, but we have no choice in the matter. We are fighting for our very lives. The British public do have a choice. They can get used to our tragedy, concentrate on their own important things in life.
‘My message for the British is as follows: It’s not just a war for our freedom and our lives.
‘This is the war of opposing world views, the war for the values. It’s important that these are preserved. This is a fight for the truth and human values.’
Yesterday, Mrs Zelenska was greeted by Rishi Sunak’s wife Akshata Murty outside 10 Downing St., with the pair posing for pictures before hanging decorations in the Ukrainian colours on the Downing St. Christmas tree with primary school children.
Camilla, Queen Consort holds an audience with First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska at Buckingham Palace on November 29, 2022 in London
Speaking at the ‘Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative’ conference in the British capital earlier in the day, Mrs Zelenska said Kyiv prosecutors were investigating more than 100 possible crimes by Russian soldiers, but added these investigations were ‘just a small’ fraction of the true number of such crimes being committed in Ukraine.
She went on to demand a ‘global response’ to the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and slammed the wives of Putin’s troops for encouraging their husbands to ‘rape Ukrainian women’.
And today, Mrs Zelenska was at Buckingham Palace as the guest of Queen Consort Camilla, who hosted the first lady and several other guests as part of the United Nations’ 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.
The reception was attended by around 300 people including survivors and their families, as well as famous faces including Spice Girl Mel B, Queen Rania of Jordan and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark.