First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska spoke at the United for Justice conference held in Lviv.
Such an event is being held in Ukraine for the first time. The conference was attended by leading lawyers from around the world, experts in the field of international law, attorneys general, representatives of the legislative and executive authorities, and diplomats. The event is expected to become a legal "Ramstein" that will help unite efforts to bring all those guilty of international crimes in Ukraine to justice.
The President's wife took part in the panel "Combating Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War." First Lady of Latvia Andra Levite, President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna, and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten also spoke during the panel.
Zelenska cited examples of violent crimes committed by the Russian military against Ukrainians.
"In Kherson region, a Russian soldier repeatedly raped a 62-year-old woman by threatening to use weapons. Psychologists are working with her now. In Kyiv region, the invaders raped a girl and her mother, beat the father and forced him to watch. They are now also provided with psychological support. Another family in Kyiv region – mother, daughter and granddaughter – suffered violence from the occupiers for two weeks. Now, they are constantly provided with psychological support. These are just some of the cases of sexual violence committed by the Russian invaders that are being investigated by the Prosecutor General's Office. And in total, the PGO has currently recorded 171 such facts. Not only women behind this figure. Among the victims are 39 men and 13 minors, including a boy," the First Lady said.
The President's wife said that the victim is never responsible for the crime – only the offender is responsible.
"Here's what victims should know. They should know that the state is always on their side. And the entire international law, the entire free world is on their side. We must guarantee support and psychological assistance to everyone. But the main thing is that we all have to guarantee them the most important thing – justice, punishment for their offenders," the First Lady said, calling on the world to punish Russian war criminals.
Zelenska held a separate meeting with Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten. The President's wife thanked her for her active position.
"She actively testifies to the use of sexual violence as a weapon by the Russian army in Ukraine. Because of this, Ms. Patten is being pressured by Russia and its accomplices, who are sending threats to her email address. I thanked Pramila Patten for her courage and principles," the First Lady said.
Zelenska said that cooperation with the UN continues: on March 7, the "Experience of Ukraine and the UN in prevention and response to conflict-related sexual violence and the role of women's civil society organization" event will be held at the headquarters of the United Nations within the framework of the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. The "Sexual crimes of the Russian army in Ukraine" video project, based on real stories and testimonies of those who suffered from sexual violence committed by the Russian military, and eyewitnesses of these crimes, will also be presented.
"On a human level, we must bring this knowledge and information about violent crimes to as many people as possible. Unfortunately, there are still people in the world who have not decided who is the aggressor and who is defending," the President's wife said.
"I highly appreciate the work of the First Lady. Your leadership in this topic and the fact that you pay a lot of attention to it, talk about it on various international platforms, are very important. We talk a lot about justice and know how important it is for victims, their families, and society. But there will be no justice if the cases of violence are not known if these cases are not referred for further investigation," Patten said.
In Lviv, Zelenska also visited the Medical and Psychological Assistance center, which works at the railway station to meet and coordinate forced migrants arriving in the city. Within the scope of the project, around-the-clock support is provided by doctors, psychologists, and volunteers, including Lviv residents and internally displaced persons. The oldest volunteer is 73 years old.