Ukraine’s first lady pleads with US Congress: ‘Give us weapons to stop Russian missiles’

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Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, addresses members of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington (AP)
Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, addresses members of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington (AP)

Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska has appealed face to face to US politicians for more air defence systems to help guard her country’s skies.

She spoke during an unsparing Capitol address showing the blood-stained prams and small crumpled bodies left by Russia’s bombardments.

“We want no more airstrikes, no more missile strikes,” Mrs Zelenska told Republican and Democratic congressional members in a speech capping a visit to Washington in the stead of her husband, President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Is this too much to ask for?”

“This is what I’m asking for and what my husband is asking for,” she said from the stage of the Capitol’s congressional auditorium, showing photos of carnage on an overhead screen that had politicans shaking their heads at the scenes.

“As parents.”

Olena Zelenska is introduced by US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Olena Zelenska is introduced by US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Mrs Zelenska’s Washington meetings with first lady Jill Biden, President Joe Biden and other top administration figures have been among her highest-profile events of the war.

She spent the first two months after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in late February in seclusion with her two children for safety.

Her husband has remained in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, through the war.

He made a powerful address by video to politicians in the same auditorium earlier this year, drawing repeated standing ovations.

Mrs Zelenska repeatedly thanked politicians and Mr Biden for the billions of dollars in arms and other support the US has delivered to Ukraine to help it battle Russian forces and jets.

She called for more anti-air defence to help repel what have been unending Russian missile and airstrikes that have killed countless civilians and levelled some Ukrainian cities.

She showed photographs of a smiling, paint-smeared four-year-old girl, Liza Dmitrieva, whom the first lady met before Christmas.

The screen next showed an overturned pram with blood caking the pavement beneath it, after an airstrike killed the girl and badly hurt her mother last week.

Mrs Zelenska showed and told the stories of other Ukrainian children killed or maimed by airstrikes or shot to death as their families tried to flee with them.

“Our family represents the whole world for us, and we do everything to preserve it,” she said.

“We cry when we cannot save it. And we remain completely broken when our world is destroyed by war.”

The speech was an unexpected change in tone for a visit whose previous public moments had included receiving a bouquet from Mr Biden at the White House, an award ceremony and a visit to a local monument for Ukrainians.

“We’ve seen from Ukrainian leadership their courage but also their no-nonsense direct appeal and laying out the brutal mentality of Mr Putin,” Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said as politicians filed out.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, and other top leaders and rank-and-file politicians listened.

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