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Olena Zelenska, Ukraine's first lady, says Russia is waging mass murder of civilians

Olena Zelenska, wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, says Russia's invasion of her country amounts to mass murder of civilians.
Anna Moneymaker
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Olena Zelenska, wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, says Russia's invasion of her country amounts to mass murder of civilians.

"When Russia says that it is 'not waging war against civilians,' I call out the names of these murdered children first," Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska said, in an open letter that was published Tuesday night.

Zelenska wrote out what she calls "my testimony from Ukraine," after being flooded with requests for interviews in the two weeks since Russia invaded her country with tanks, warplanes and other forces — a turn of events that she said was "impossible to believe."

"Perhaps the most terrifying and devastating of this invasion are the child casualties," she said. "Eight-year-old Alice who died on the streets of Okhtyrka while her grandfather tried to protect her. Or Polina from Kyiv, who died in the shelling with her parents. Fourteen-year-old Arseniy was hit in the head by wreckage and could not be saved because an ambulance could not get to him on time because of intense fires."

The first lady described babies born in bomb shelters and elderly people being cut off from their support systems. She spoke of the sadness of leaving whole lives behind in a new national emergency.

"After all, despite all this horror, Ukrainians do not give up," she said, praising those resisting the Russian force and others for providing humanitarian aid.

"I appeal to you, dear media: Keep showing what is happening here and keep showing the truth," she said.

Zelenska also reiterated calls for a no-fly zone over the country. It's urgent to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin, she said, because no one knows what other country might come under attack next.

This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.

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