Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska speaks on Russia invasion

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Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska speaks on Russia invasion

Ukraine’s first lady is breaking her silence on the Russian invasion — now in its 99th day — saying she has no idea when the conflict will end.

Olena Zelenska, who married Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in 2003, spoke to ABC News’ “Good Morning America” in an exclusive interview that aired Thursday ahead of the 100-day mark since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Zelenska, who has been in hiding since the start of the invasion, said the couple’s 9-year-old son regularly asks her when the bloodshed will end.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think any Ukrainian would be able to answer that question,” the 44-year-old first lady said.

Conceding land to Russia, which would be akin to giving up a “freedom,” would not stop its advances, Zelenska insisted.

Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska sat down with Good Morning America's Robin Roberts.
Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska sat down with Robin Roberts of “Good Morning America.”
ABC News / GMA
A Ukrainian serviceman shows ammunition found near the frontline after a shelling attack in the Donetsk oblast region.
A Ukrainian serviceman shows shrapnel found near the front line after a shelling attack in the Donetsk oblast region.
AP

“Even if we would consider territories, the aggressor would not stop at that,” she told “GMA” co-anchor Robin Roberts. “He would continue pressing, he would continue launching more and more steps forward, more and more attacks against our territory.”

The interview aired as Britain pledged Thursday to send medium-range rocket systems to Ukraine — joining the US and Germany in equipping the war-torn nation with advanced weapons.

The move prompted a Kremlin spokesman to warn of “absolutely undesirable and rather unpleasant scenarios” if the Western-supplied weapons were fired into Russia.

Zelenska appears alongside her husband at the funeral ceremony for Ukraine's first president, Leonid Kravchuk, on May 17.
Zelenska appears alongside her husband at the funeral ceremony for Ukraine’s first president, Leonid Kravchuk, on May 17.
REUTERS
Olena Zelenska visits School 6, a public school that has taken in displaced students, on May 8.
Olena Zelenska visits School 6, a public school that has taken in displaced students, on May 8.
EyePress News/Shutterstock

Zelenska, meanwhile, said her son also keeps asking about his father, whom he has not seen since the beginning of the invasion on Feb. 24.

“We said goodbye to one another on the very first day,” she said. “And over the next two months, we only had a chance to speak via the phone.”

Zelenska said she’s “proud” of her husband of nearly 20 years, claiming the world has seen his “true identity” after his “unexpected” decision to leave behind a successful comedy career and enter politics.

Zelenska meets with US First Lady Jill Biden outside a public school in Uzhhorod on May 8.
Zelenska meets with US first lady Jill Biden outside a public school in Uzhhorod on May 8.
POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Olena Zelenska and Volodymyr Zelensky
Zelenska said she’s “proud” of her husband of nearly 20 years.
REUTERS

“That’s one trait about Volodymyr that’s very important — he likes to change things around himself,” she said. “And that’s why I clearly realized that there wouldn’t be anything even closely related to the word ‘boring’ when you were staying with him.”

Had her beloved set his sights on becoming an astronaut, Zelenska said, “Well, I would have to fly with him,” she told Roberts.

Zelenska also recalled the inspiring stories of Ukrainians throughout the conflict, including that of a maternity nurse in the besieged port city of Mariupol.

Children walk past a damaged school in the small city of Merefa in the Kharkiv area.
Children walk past a damaged school in the small city of Merefa in the Kharkiv area.
EPA
Zelenska and Jill Biden together at School 6 in Uzhhorod.
Zelenska and Jill Biden at School 6 in Uzhhorod.
POOL/AFP via Getty Images

“She continued working, despite all those shelling,” she said. “There was no water supplies. There was no electricity supply. And she kept on working until that maternity hospital was completely destroyed.”

Despite the incessant attacks, the nurse, Tatiana, helped deliver 27 newborns during that span, Zelenska said.

But the war has been especially brutal for Ukraine’s youth, according to the first lady, who said 243 children had been killed as of Wednesday.

A Ukrainian serviceman patrols a village near the frontline in the Donetsk oblast region.
A Ukrainian serviceman patrols a village near the front line in the Donetsk oblast region.
AP
Olena Zelenska
Zelenska reflected on the war since the Russian invasion began in February.
ABC News / GMA

Zelenska also cited a story of two young boys who witnesses their mother being killed before having to bury her body themselves.

“We need to help people to live that through,” she said. “We need to help people psychologically, mentally, in whatever ways possible.”

In response to the “atrocities” of the war, Zelenska said she intends to start a national program to provide mental health support to Ukrainians.

Olena Zelenska
“We need to help people live [the war] through,” Zelenska said.
ABC News / GMA
Teachers and local workers clear the rubble in the aftermath of an overnight rocket attack on a school near Kharkiv.
Teachers and local workers clear the rubble in the aftermath of an overnight rocket attack on a school near Kharkiv.
EPA
A damaged school in the aftermath of an overnight rocket attack on June 2.
A damaged school in the aftermath of an overnight rocket attack on June 2.
EPA

“The medical institutions and medical system as we have it right now, it might simply be not enough to cover all the needs,” she said. “That’s why we need to be prepared.”

Zelenska then spoke of the “enormous support” Ukraine had received from around the world until the interview was interrupted by an air raid siren, ABC News reported.

Once the interview resumed, Zelenska thanked first lady Jill Biden for visiting western Ukraine last month, characterizing it as a “tremendous” show of support.

“I finally managed to see her face to face, and it was a tremendously courageous action that she has made,” Zelenska said. “She came to the country which is at war, and the people of Ukraine, they highly appreciated that.”

Zelenska also urged Americans “not to get used to this war” as Ukraine hopes and waits for “more assistance” to come.

“Otherwise, we are risking a never-ending war and this is not something we would like to have,” she told ABC News. “Don’t get used to our pain.”

With Post wires

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