Ukraine’s first lady says ‘we are getting stronger’ amid Russia’s invasion

Olena Zelenska
Greg Nash
First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska addresses members of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska said in an interview aired Sunday that she and other Ukrainians are “getting stronger” with Russia’s war now in its eighth month.

Zelenska, the wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, has become a prominent voice of Ukraine’s resistance, addressing U.S. lawmakers earlier in July to urge continued support for the fight against Moscow.

CBS’ “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley asked Zelenska if the war had shown her that she was stronger than she previously thought.

“Everyone has become stronger… You survive, and going through trials you automatically become stronger,” Zelenska told Pelley. “So yes, we are getting stronger, but will that help us? I hope so.” 

But Zelenska also told Pelley that Ukrainians are suffering amid ongoing shelling.

“Half our families are separated, because someone is at the front, someone went abroad to save their children, someone is under Russian occupation. People are afraid to leave their homes because of shelling, they are afraid to even try to evacuate. We have thousands of dead. Hundreds of children are dead,” she said.

“What are the Russians trying to do?” Pelley asked Zelenska. 

“They trying to frighten people to make them run to have towns and villages empty so they can occupy these territories,” Zelenska replied.

Pelley asked if Russia’s attacks were warfare or terrorism.

“Definitely terrorism,” Zelenska replied, “the war is being waged using modern means but from the moral and ethical point of view, it’s the middle ages.”

Zelenska’s interview comes as Ukraine has made continued gains on the battlefield, pushing Russian forces out of the strategic city of Lyman.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded to Russian losses by ramping up his rhetoric about nuclear weapons and mobilizing up to 300,000 reservists to join the fight.

He also held a ceremony on Friday to annex four regions of Ukraine, in a move derided by the US, which promised not to be deterred in supporting Kyiv.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan told a top Ukrainian official on Sunday that any individual or entity who supports Russia’s annexation of regions in eastern and southern Ukraine will face “severe” consequences. 

Zelensky announced on Friday that Ukraine would file an expedited application to join NATO, arguing that Kyiv was already a “de facto” ally. 

Tags 60 Minutes CBS News NATO Olena Zelenska Olena Zelenska Russia Russia-Ukraine conflict Russian annexation scott pelley Scott Pelley Ukraine Vladimir Putin Volodymyr Zelensky Volodymyr Zelensky
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