Russian troops are using violence against women as a weapon of war with rape victims as young as four and as old as 85, according to Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska.
In a speech to MPs and peers on Tuesday evening, Zelenska – the wife of Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy – accused Russian forces of sexual violence and rape during the months-long Ukraine crisis, which is now heading into a long winter.
She said the youngest known victim was among the “thousands” of such crimes and said the UK must become a “world leader” in securing justice.
Zelenska said: “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…
“We have documented thousands of crimes including sexual violence.
“The youngest girl who was raped by the Russian occupiers was four years old. The oldest survivor was 85.”
Watch: Olena Zelenska addresses MPs during her visit to UK
Standing in front of both a Union and Ukrainian flag, she added: “Justice like victory is not possible without allies.”
Zelenska argued that the International Criminal Court (ICC) does not have the legal force to punish Moscow for its invasion.
Through a translator, she said: “We need to start the special tribunal against the crime of aggression of Russia against Ukraine, which will enhance the work of the ICC and not weaken it.”
Stirring up comparisons between the Ukraine crisis and the Second World War, she went on: “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.”
House of Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle introduced Zelenska by saying it was parliamentarians’ duty to “keep the world awake” to the horrors of Russia’s invasion as he praised her “bravery”.
Former prime minister Boris Johnson, who had offered vocal support to Ukraine during his premiership, attended the speech alongside Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey.
Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt was also in attendance, alongside MPs from across all parties.
After her speech, Zelenska toured an exhibition in Portcullis House detailing alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine alongside Hoyle, who called the images “shocking, distressing and appalling”.
It came after she visited Downing Street and met prime minister Rishi Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murthy, on Monday.
Foreign secretary James Cleverly is at a gathering of Nato foreign ministers in Romania this week, which will discuss how to continue support for Ukraine throughout the cold winter months.