Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska: ‘We’ll endure cold in the blackouts’

First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska (AP)
First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska (AP)

Ukraine’s first lady has vowed the country will survive the winter as Russian airstrikes leave millions facing the bitter cold without heating or light.

Olena Zelenska also insisted Ukraine will continue to fight as “without victory there can be no peace”.

“We are ready to endure this,” Mrs Zelenska told the BBC in an interview in Kyiv, where most of the city was left without power yesterday following a barrage of missile strikes.

“We’ve had so many terrible challenges, seen so many victims, so much destruction, that blackouts are not the worst thing to happen to us.”

Meanwhile, Britain’s Foreign Secretary today promised Ukraine’s president that the UK will commit “action — not just words” in its support of the war-torn nation.

James Cleverly met Volodymyr Zelensky during a visit to Kyiv, just days after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak travelled to the Ukrainian capital.

James Cleverly and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba meet in Kyiv (via REUTERS)
James Cleverly and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba meet in Kyiv (via REUTERS)

He said the UK intends to keep its pledge to offer “concrete” assistance, as words alone “won’t keep the lights on” or “defend against Russian missiles”.

It came as Mr Cleverly announced a package of support to help the nation through the winter, including 24 ambulances and six armoured vehicles.

At battles continue to rage in the east of the country, British defence chiefs claimed Vladimir Putin was sending mobilised reservists to their death as they were ordered to dig trenches on the frontline under Ukrainian artillery fire.

They said some of them were deployed to fight in Ukraine despite suffering “serious, chronic health conditions”, with little training and poor equipment. Putin ordered a part-mobilisation of 300,000 men in September after his forces suffered heavy losses on the battlefield, as have Ukrainian troops.

Ukrainian forces are seeking to make another counter-offensive breakthrough between Kreminna and Svatove in the eastern Donbas region. At the same time, Russian generals have ordered their troops to advance in the Bakhmut area.

In an intelligence update, the Ministry of Defence said: “Mobilised reservists have highly likely experienced particularly heavy casualties after being committed to dig ambitious trench systems while under artillery fire around the Luhansk Oblast (province) town of Svatove. In Donetsk Oblast, reservists have been killed in large numbers in frontal assaults ... around the town of Bakhmut.”

Britain, the US, Ukraine and their allies are fighting an information war against Russia so their military briefings need to be treated with caution, often focusing on Russian losses and setbacks, though are far more believable than the propaganda issued by the Kremlin.

In Moscow, Putin was due to meet the mothers of soldiers fighting in Ukraine.

About 100,000 Russian soldiers are estimated by the US to have been killed or wounded in the nine-month war, with a similar level of casualties thought to have been suffered by Ukrainian forces.