Ukrainian first lady pleads with Congress for more help against Russia

·3 min read

WASHINGTON — Ukraine's first lady, Olena Zelenska, delivered remarks to Congress in person Wednesday as her country continues its defense against Russia's invasion, asking members for weapons to help end the conflict.

"Because we want every father and every mother to be able to tell their child go to sleep peacefully, there will be no more airstrikes, no more missile strikes. Is this too much to wish for?" she said.

Zelenska addressed lawmakers Wednesday morning in a Capitol Visitor Center auditorium — the same setting where her husband, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, spoke to Congress virtually in March, just a few weeks after Russia's military entered the country.

Zelenska shared details about Russian missile attacks on the country, heavily focusing on child victims who have been killed or injured.

She described one of the young victims, Lisa, as a "cheerful, playful little rascal." As she spoke, a video played behind her, showing Lisa walking to school with her mother pushing her own stroller. The photo to follow was Lisa's stroller knocked over by a Russian missile attack that killed the 4-year-old.

"Those are Russia's 'Hunger Games' — hunting for peaceful people in peaceful cities of Ukraine. They will never broadcast this on their news. That's why I'm showing it to you here," Zelenska said.

She showed multiple pictures of other victims, including other young children and an entire family who have died in the war.

"This girl is Eva. She liked to draw pictures. She was only five," Zelenska said while showing a picture of a small lifeless body in the midst of ruins.

In a letter to her colleagues Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said there have been “horrific stories about the brutal treatment of women and girls by Russian forces,” including kidnappings, deportations into Russia and rape.

“When I have commented to some that it is outrageous and sickening that war produces such atrocities, I have been told these barbaric crimes are being directly ordered by Putin,” Pelosi said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Let me be clear: Rape of children cannot be a weapon of war. It is a war crime!”

Zelenska spoke to Congress after having met with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden at the White House on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters during Tuesday's meeting, Jill Biden, who visited Ukraine in May, said, "You cannot go into a war zone and come back and not feel the sorrow and the pain of the people I met." She added that the group at the meeting, which included several top Biden administration officials, would discuss ways to help address the mental health needs of the Ukrainian people, a subject the two first ladies discussed in their initial meeting on Mother's Day.

Congress passed a $40 billion aid package for military, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine in May.

The White House said Tuesday that it has detailed information that Russia plans to annex more Ukrainian territory, including forcing residents to apply for Russian citizenship, making the ruble the official currency and taking control of telecommunications networks.

Russia has continued to launch missile strikes on Ukrainian civilians, killing dozens of people in recent days.