Ukraine’s first lady makes impassioned plea for more US arms

by | Jul 20, 2022 | World

Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska long has made clear she has no personal craving for the spotlight, yet on Wednesday she stood in the United States Capitol and made the case for more US air defence systems to block Russian missiles.She showed the US’s most powerful legislators stark images of the toll of Russian bombardment of cities on Ukraine’s children – a blood-splattered baby stroller, a small crumpled body.
For Zelenska, wife of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the appearance capped a week in Washington, DC, that marked some of her highest-profile appearances of the five-month war. The visit was also one of the first times most Americans have laid eyes on her.
“We want no more air strikes. No more missile strikes,” Zelenska told Republicans and Democrats Wednesday, as an overhead screen displayed the war’s youngest victims. “Is this too much to ask for?”
Zelenska, speaking to an audience that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, appeared in the same congressional auditorium where her husband drew standing ovations from politicians three weeks into Russia’s invasion. Her husband had spoken by video.
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Zelenskyy has won praise from supporters for staying in Kyiv since Russia attacked, speaking nightly by video address. Zelenska and the couple’s two children, meanwhile, went into hiding away from Zelenskyy for security reasons over the first two months of the war.
Zelenska worked as a scriptwriter for her husband, a comedian and actor before he won the presidency in 2019. They married in 2003.
Speaking to Vogue magazine the same year her husband was elected, Zelenska said she, by nature, was no teller of jokes and “a non-public person”.
But as first lady, “I found for myself arguments in favour of publicity. One of them is the opportunity to draw people’s attention to important social issues,” Zelenska said then.
A visit by Jill Biden to western Ukraine in May, when the two first ladies spoke privately and sat alongside displaced children living at a school, marked the start of Zelenska’s em …

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