Duchess Sophie of Edinburgh Breaks Ground as First Royal to Visit Ukraine Post-Russian Invasion

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The Duchess of Edinburgh, at 59, has made history by becoming the first member of the royal family to travel to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, where she met with President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife in Kyiv.

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Sophie’s surprise visit, conducted on behalf of the Foreign Office, aimed to demonstrate solidarity with those affected by the conflict and to advance her efforts in advocating for survivors of sexual violence related to conflicts, as stated by Buckingham Palace.

The duchess is a strong advocate for the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative and the Women, Peace, and Security agenda, having assumed the role on International Women’s Day in 2019.

During her visit, she engaged with survivors of conflict-related sexual violence and torture, who bravely shared their stories, as well as female volunteers providing mental health support activities for children in communities affected by attacks.

She also met with children who had been reunited with their families in Ukraine after being forcibly separated and deported by Kremlin authorities to occupied territories or mainland Russia.

Ukraine has reported approximately 20,000 Ukrainian children, including thousands of orphans, being abducted by Russia since the invasion began in February 2022, with only about 400 returned.

Last March, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his children’s ombudsman, Maria Lvova-Belova, in connection with child abductions.

The duchess held discussions with President Zelensky and First Lady Olena Zelenska on how to best support survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.

Speaking at the Conflict-related Sexual Violence Conference last month, she emphasized the importance of survivors’ voices and rights in efforts to address and prevent such crimes.

She also paid tribute to those who lost their lives in Bucha, a town near Kyiv liberated from Russian occupation two years ago, where war crimes against civilians are believed to have occurred.

Additionally, she visited the “Road to Life,” a bridge that played a significant role in the Ukrainian resistance by impeding Russian troops and serving as a route for civilians to escape Russian occupation.

Since 2022, the UK has committed over £4.7 billion in non-military assistance to Ukraine, including £660 million in bilateral aid prioritizing the needs of women and girls, such as funding essential services for survivors of gender-based violence and collaborating with the Office of the Prosecutor General to prioritize survivor-centered approaches in prosecuting conflict-related sexual violence crimes.

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