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Ukrainian First Lady Pleads to US Lawmakers for Anti-Missile Systems

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Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, addresses members of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 20, 2022.

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska on Wednesday showed pictures of casualties of Russia’s war on her country to U.S. lawmakers, delivering an emotional appeal for a supply of more air defense systems to fight off Moscow’s missile attacks.

Zelenska showed the faces of Liza, a toddler killed in a missile attack earlier this month in Vinnytsia, 5-year-old Eva, left in the rubble of a destroyed building, and a Holocaust survivor killed in Kyiv.

“I want to address you not as first lady, but as a daughter and as a mother,” Zelenska said in Ukrainian, as a woman translated her speech to English. “No matter what positions and titles we reach in our lives, first of all, we always remain part of our family.”

Watch the address:

She said first ladies are usually “exclusively engaged in peaceful affairs.”

“But how can I talk about [peaceful affairs] when an unprovoked invasive terrorist war is being waged against my country? Russia is destroying our people,” she said.

“I am asking for weapons—weapons that will not be used to wage a war on somebody else’s land, but to protect one’s home and the right to make up a life in that home,” Zelenska said. “I am asking for air-defense systems in order for rockets not to kill children in their strollers … and kill entire families.”

“I want every mother and father to go to sleep peacefully,” she said.

Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, introduces members of Congress to a young victim of a Russian bombing during her address on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 20, 2022.
Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, introduces members of Congress to a young victim of a Russian bombing during her address on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 20, 2022.

Zelenska was in her third day of a visit to Washington, after meeting Tuesday with U.S. first lady Jill Biden at the White House and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday.

The two first ladies last saw each other during Biden’s unannounced visit to western Ukraine in May, when they visited a school and joined children who were making Mother’s Day gifts.

The White House said Zelenska is visiting Washington “to highlight the human cost of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” with the first ladies discussing “the United States’ continued support for the government of Ukraine and its people as they defend their democracy and cope with the significant human impacts of Russia’s war, which will be felt for years to come.”

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