Ukraine’s First Lady says the war has stolen her son’s childhood


Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska said yesterday Vladimir Putin’s on-going invasion of her country has stolen her son’s childhood, and the nine-year-old now dreams of being a soldier when he’s older.

Speaking in an interview with NBC News on Wednesday, Zelenska – the wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – said their young son Kyrylo has lost all interest in the hobbies that he enjoyed before the war began in February.

Through a translator, she told NBC’s Peter Alexander that she can’t get him back to ‘doing arts and humanities’. When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, Zelenska said: ‘Obviously he wants to be a soldier.’

Now, she said, that’s what all Ukrainian boys dream of.

‘Before the war, my son used to go to the folk dance ensemble. He played piano. He learned English. He of course attended sports club,’ she said.

But after almost five months of Ukraine being at war with Russia, ‘the only thing he wants to [learn] is martial arts and how to use a rifle,’ she said.

Zelenska married her husband in 2003 and have two children together. In addition to their son Kyrylo, they also have 18-year-old Oleksandra. Zelenska was sworn in as the First Lady of Ukraine after Zelensky was elected president in 2019.

The interview came as Zelenska visited America on a diplomatic mission to Washington DC to appeal directly to the U.S. Congress for more air defence systems.

Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska (pictured speaking to NBC News during a visit to the United States on Wednesday) said yesterday Vladimir Putin’s on-going invasion of her country has caused her nine-year-old son to want to become a soldier

Pictured: Olena Zelenska with husband Volodymyr Zelensky and their children, Oleksandra and Kyrylo. When asked what her son wants to be when he grows up, Zelenska said: 'Obviously he wants to be a soldier.' Now, she said, that's what all Ukrainian boys dream of

Pictured: Olena Zelenska with husband Volodymyr Zelensky and their children, Oleksandra and Kyrylo. When asked what her son wants to be when he grows up, Zelenska said: ‘Obviously he wants to be a soldier.’ Now, she said, that’s what all Ukrainian boys dream of

In an emotional speech on Wednesday, she appealed for the weapons systems to save ‘children in strollers’ from being killed by Russian rockets.

‘Those are Russia’s hunger games—hunting for peaceful people,’ Zelenska said as she displayed pictures of a three-year-old now using prosthetic limbs after being caught in one of Russia’s indiscriminate attacks. 

‘They will never broadcast this on their news. That’s why I’m showing it to you here.

‘I want to address you not as a first lady but as a daughter and a mother,’ Zelenska said. ‘An unprovoked invasive terrorist war is being waged against my country.’ ‘Russia is destroying our people,’ she added. 

She also evoked the high-profile death of Liza, a four-year-old who was killed in a strike on the central city of Vinnytsia last week 

After highlighting the atrocities carried out by Russia against her nation, she turned to a plea for more weapons. 

‘I’m asking for something now that I would never want to ask. I am asking for weapons… air defense systems. In order for rockets not to kill children in their strollers.’ 

She said the weapons would not be used to ‘wage a war on somebody else’s land’ but to ‘protect one’s home and the right to wake up alive in that home.’  

‘I know that you [legislators] will be leaving for the traditional congressional recess in a week… I hope you heard me today. And I hope that your decisions will be speedy.

‘Help us to stop this terror against Ukrainians,’ Zelenska said.

She invoked both the memory of the September 11 terrorist attacks and the US Declaration of Independence’s call for all people to enjoy ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’

US lawmakers will go on recess next week and ‘this is normal,’ she said.

The interview came as Zelenska visited America on a diplomatic mission to Washington to appeal directly to the U.S. Congress for more air defence systems. Pictured: Zelenska speaks to members of the US Congress about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, July 20

The interview came as Zelenska visited America on a diplomatic mission to Washington to appeal directly to the U.S. Congress for more air defence systems. Pictured: Zelenska speaks to members of the US Congress about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, July 20

Zelenska married her husband in 2003 and have two children together. In addition to their son Kyrylo, they also have 18-year-old Oleksandra. Zelenska was sworn in as the First Lady of Ukraine after Zelensky was elected president in 2019

‘It is precisely this normalcy that we are deprived of now. Will my son be able to return to school in the fall? I don’t know, like millions of mothers in Ukraine.’

Both President Joe Biden, whom she met Tuesday, and the US Congress have been enthusiastic about supplying weapons to Ukraine, approving a $40 billion package in May.

But with Russian forces advancing in the east, Ukraine has been seeking to secure a more steady flow of weapons including longer-range precision rockets.

US lawmakers applauded Zelenska as she thanked them for assistance and said, ‘While Russia kills, America saves.’

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said Wednesday Washington would send four more M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (Himars), which have notably boosted Kyiv’s capabilities.

‘Ukraine needs the firepower and the ammunition to withstand this barrage and to strike back,’ Austin told reporters, adding that the new shipment would bring the total of US Himars sent to Kyiv to 16.

Russia has warned about arms supplies and said it will no longer be focused only on wresting control of the east Ukraine regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, which have been partially controlled by pro-Moscow rebels for years.

More support for Ukraine was announced on Thursday, when the British government said it would be sending hundreds of drones and anti-tank weapons and scores of artillery guns to Ukraine over the coming weeks to help fend off the Russian invasion.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced that counter-battery radar systems and more than 50,000 rounds of ammunition for Ukraine’s existing Soviet-era artillery will follow.

The Ministry of Defence said the weaponry will help bolster Ukraine’s ability to defend against Vladimir Putin’s ‘indiscriminate’ use of artillery.

More than 20 M109 155mm self-propelled guns and 36 L119 105mm artillery guns will be arriving shortly, the MoD added. In excess of 1,600 anti-tank weapons and hundreds of loitering aerial munitions will also be sent.

Mr Wallace said: ‘The scale and range of equipment we are providing demonstrates the strength of our resolve. Together with our international partners, we will ensure Ukraine has the tools to defend their country from Putin’s illegal invasion.’

US First Lady Jill Biden and US President Joe Biden welcome the First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska (centre) to the White House in Washington DC, 19 July 2022

US First Lady Jill Biden and US President Joe Biden welcome the First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska (centre) to the White House in Washington DC, 19 July 2022

Meanwhile, Russian artillery strikes pounded Ukraine’s second largest city Kharkiv on Thursday after Moscow announced it was expanding its war aims, even as Russian gas flows to Europe resumed through the Nord Stream pipeline.

The attacks on the eastern city – scarred by weeks of Russian shelling – came after 10 days of scheduled work ended on the Nord Stream gas pipeline that had spurred fears of a permanent cut-off.

Kharkiv’s regional governor said two people were killed and 19 injured, four of whom were in a serious condition.

Three people were killed by strikes a day earlier in Kharkiv, where some semblance of normal life had returned in recent weeks after Ukrainian forces pushed back Russian troops from the city limits.

‘We are asking Kharkiv residents to be extremely careful. The enemy is firing chaotically and brutally at the city. Stay in shelters!’ the governor, Oleg Synegubov, wrote on social media.

Presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak said there was also some damage on a mosque in Kharkiv, accusing Russia of ‘contempt’ after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Iran this week.

In Kramatorsk in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, which has seen some of fiercest fighting, a school that Ukrainian officials said was being used as a food aid storage point was also struck.

The school’s deputy director Olena Shmadchenko, 56, looked at the destroyed building in despair.

‘I have been working at this school for 16 years. It was my home!’ she told AFP.

Ukrainian soldiers ride a tank on a road in the Donetsk region on July 20, 2022

Ukrainian soldiers ride a tank on a road in the Donetsk region on July 20, 2022

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said Wednesday Washington would send four more M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (Himars), which have notably boosted Kyiv's capabilities

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said Wednesday Washington would send four more M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (Himars), which have notably boosted Kyiv’s capabilities

Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24 and the war has left thousands dead, forced millions to flee their homes and wrought havoc with the economy.

The central bank on Thursday said it was devaluing the Ukrainian currency, the hryvnia, by 25 percent.

‘The new hryvnia rate will become an anchor for the economy and will add its resilience in conditions of uncertainty,’ the bank said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the resumption of gas supplies from Russia to Europe through Germany came a day after Europe unveiled emergency measures to circumvent Russian energy ‘blackmail’.

In its latest package of penalties Wednesday, the European Union targeted gold exports and froze assets at Russia’s largest bank Sberbank.

The German government had been worried Moscow would not reopen the taps on the Nord Stream pipeline after Russia in recent months severely curbed flows in retaliation against sanctions.

‘It’s working,’ a Nord Stream spokesman said Thursday, without specifying the amount of gas being delivered.



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