WOMAN TO WOMAN UKRAINE MPS IN PARLIAMENT
Ukrainian women MPs met with their British counterparts in Parliament to give a firsthand account of life under Russian military bombardment. Noa Ho man reports
Adelegation of four female Ukrainian politicians travelled to the United Kingdom to make diplomatic representations to British MPs including Cabinet ministers.
Addressing female MPs and the press at separate events, Lesia Vasylenko, Alona Shkrum, Maria Mezentseva and Olena Khomenko described harrowing details of sexual violence they said was taking place amid the con ict in their country.
“Unfortunately, it is still the very beginning of the atrocities,” said Vasylenko, a politician belonging to the liberal Holos Party. “[Vladimir] Putin’s army is commi ing war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
e MPs said women, including elderly citizens who had been unable to escape cities under a ack, had experienced rape, gang-rapes and subsequent executions. ey had been told of cases of suicide following such a acks.
e southern city of Mariupol has been under siege for more than two weeks, with intense shelling and rocket a acks; it is currently considered a “no-go zone”.
Russian airstrikes have targeted a theatre where an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 civilians, including children, were taking shelter. It is unclear how many died in the a ack.
e incident followed a separate bombing a ack on a maternity hospital in Mariupol, where several people, including a pregnant woman and her baby, were killed.
“e atrocities which we are witnessing are against the most vulnerable,” Vasylenko said. “Putin has shi ed his strategy to target speci cally women and children. is is a tragedy.”
She added that many “victims and families do not have the strength to come forward,” making documenting the crimes more di cult.
e delegation called on humanitarian organisations and the British government to provide assistance to women and children traumatised by sexual violence and to help document evidence of war crimes that could later be used in the International Court of Justice.
Ukrainians wanting to seek refuge in the UK can currently apply under two visa schemes.
e “Ukraine family scheme” enables individuals to join immediate or extended family members in Britain for three years.
e “homes for Ukraine” programme allows British citizens, community groups and charities to sponsor a named refugee and provide them with housing for a minimum of six months.
e Ukrainian MPs decried a lack of international aid organisations working to actively assist civilians on the ground in Ukrainian towns and cities under bombardment.
“It feels really disgusting to be le on your own,” Mezentseva said.
While the politicians said aid was being delivered to border states taking in refugees and in the west of Ukraine, where cities can be accessed more safely, help is desperately required in besieged areas.
e delegation also discussed the need for international assistance aiding traumatised children.
In a meeting with Home Secretary
Priti Patel, the MPs were told Britain would send aid workers with expertise in trauma to refugee camps in border states such as Moldova and Romania, where many unaccompanied minors are currently being housed.
ey also met Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary Michael
Gove, refugee minister Lord Harrington, armed forces minister James Heappey and Europe minister James Cleverly to discuss the refugee rese lement scheme and humanitarian, military and diplomatic support in Ukraine and its border states. During the talks, the Ukrainian parliamentarians called on Britain to implement a no- y zone and to increase humanitarian aid to besieged cities. ey also pleaded for the UK to pressure British companies and
French companies based in London to completely cease trading in Russia. “Everything that is contributed to the Russians is coming back with blood in Ukraine,” Shkrum said. anking the MPs, Conservative MP Alicia Kearns later tweeted: “We are united in standing behind our friends in Ukraine and especially fellow MPs.”
“The atrocities which we are witnessing are against the most vulnerable”