Royal Visits Ukraine for First Time Since Russian Invasion

Sophie, the Duchess of Edinburgh, became the first member of the British royal family to visit Ukraine since Russia launched its full scale invasion of the country in February 2022. Sophie is the wife of Prince Edward, the youngest child of Queen Elizabeth II, and brother of King Charles III.

The Duchess met Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and First Lady Olena Zelenska during the Monday visit. She toured Bucha to “demonstrate solidarity with the women, men, and children impacted by the war.”

While there, she laid down flowers at a memorial site in Bucha commemorating the over 400 people killed during the Russian occupation. Ukrainian authorities in April 2022 accused departing Russian forces of committing war crimes in a scene reminiscent of “a horror movie.” Zelenska also met with survivors of sexual violence and torture.

Read More: A Visit to the Crime Scene Russian Troops Left Behind at a Summer Camp in Bucha

Sophie has been focused on championing the rights of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence for several years, announcing her commitment to the U.K.’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative in 2019. “Women and girls pay the highest price in terms of human costs,” she said on Monday at an evening reception at the residence of the U.K.’s ambassador to Ukraine, per the BBC. “Rape is used to demean, to degrade, and to destroy.”

The royal family, which is usually careful about staying neutral on most matters of politics, has been unusually outspoken about its support for Ukraine.

King Charles referred to Russia’s invasion as a “unprovoked attack” in a statement marking the second anniversary of the invasion this past February. “I continue to be greatly encouraged that the United Kingdom and our allies remain at the forefront of international efforts to support Ukraine at this time of such great suffering and need,” he said.

Read More: King Charles III Sends Message to Ukraine on Anniversary of Russia’s Invasion

In March 2023, the Prince of Wales visited Poland on a “personal mission” and praised British troops working near the Ukraine border.

And in February, the Queen welcomed First Lady Zelenska to Clarence House where they discussed how the U.K. can best support Ukraine.

The U.K. has pledged nearly £5 billion in non-military aid to Ukraine since the war broke out, including over £660 million of bilateral assistance that prioritizes women and girls.

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