Don’t forget Ukraine ‘tragedy’ this Christmas, says First Lady

People should not forget the war in Ukraine this Christmas, the country’s First Lady has said ahead of a speech to MPs on Tuesday.

Olena Zelenska is expected to address MPs and peers on Tuesday as she visits London, days after Rishi Sunak made his first visit as Prime Minister to Kyiv to meet Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ms Zelenska will urge the British public not to forget the “tragedy” of the Russian invasion amid the festive season.

She also praised the UK’s vocal support for the Ukrainian resistance efforts against Vladimir Putin’s forces, as the country braces for winter.

Olena Zelenska visit to UK
First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska (right) hangs a decoration to the Christmas tree in Downing Street, with Rishi Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty (Yui Mok/PA)

She told the programme: “We feel that [strong support] by the aid for our forcefully displaced people, by the political and financial assistance and by humanitarian aid we are receiving from the British.

“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.”

“We do hope that the approaching season of Christmas doesn’t make you forget about our tragedy and get used to our suffering.”

On Monday, Ms Zelenska visited Downing Street and met the prime minister’s wife, Akshata Murty.

The full interview is set to broadcast later on Tuesday morning.

Ukraine will be top of the agenda once again when Foreign Secretary James Cleverly travels to Romania this week for a meeting of Nato allies.

The gathering of Nato foreign ministers in Bucharest is expected to discuss on how to continue support for Ukraine throughout the cold winter months.

Mr Cleverly, who will reaffirm UK support for the country in the fight against Russia, will also be involved in discussions on how the UK and Nato can solidify support to countries where Russia is accused of exerting a destabilising influence.

Mr Cleverly said: “With Russia’s war disrupting peace in Europe it’s vital that Nato and its allies look closely at how we shore up our defences to handle the challenges we face today.

“We are united in the long-term objective of supporting Ukraine and further strengthening Nato as a defensive alliance.

“The UK and its Allies will continue to show collective strength in dealing with the complex issues the world faces today, as we are doing in Bucharest today.”

Mr Cleverly will travel to Poland after the Nato meeting for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s ministerial council on Thursday.