Ukrainian MPs struck a defiant tone today as they told Vladimir Putin he would never win and that their country was more united than ever in the face of his aggression.
The four female MPs, who were granted permission to leave the war-torn country to meet UK politicians, gave a stark assessment of the damage Putin’s invasion had wreaked on their nation and its people.
Alyona Shkrum from the Batkivschyna party urged the Russian people to stand up to Putin — whom she branded the “new Hitler” — while Lesia Vasylenko of the Holos party said the president had “stolen the childhoods of millions of children across Ukraine”.
Russia should also be forced to pay for “all the damage” and losses it had caused in Ukraine, the MPs said.
Vasylenko said Ukrainians would not be cowed by Russia’s violence and said her message to the president was that “it will always be glory to Ukraine, glory to the heroes, the truth will always prevail”.
“Ukrainians will keep fighting united as one until the very last Russian soldier leaves Ukrainian territory and goes back to Russia,” she added.
It is now considered treason for any MP to leave Ukraine, but the speaker of the parliament granted the women permission to come to the UK where they will later meet with prime minister Boris Johnson to ramp up pressure for further military and humanitarian assistance.
The MPs spoke to journalists as harrowing reports emerged from the besieged city of Mariupol, where Russia bombed a theatre that was sheltering up to 1,500 civilians.
They said Mariupol was now “90% destroyed” and compared it to the Syrian city of Aleppo, which was relentlessly carpet-bombed by Putin alongside president Bashar al-Assad during the civil war in 2016.
Mariupol’s residents have been left with no food and have been forced to melt snow and extract from sewage systems to obtain water, they said, while babies were being born next to stockpiled bodies of wounded civilians.
Vasylenko said that 400,000 people live in Mariupol but soon “that city will be no more”.
Shkrum also issued an urgent plea for Russian people to stop Putin, who she said wanted to destroy the “entire security architecture” of the world.
“My message to the Russian people would be that you had been fighting a Nazi evil 70 years ago and now you’ve created a new Hitler.
“They need to start asking questions about where their soldiers are going because their soldiers have been lied to.
“All of that is a crazy mad man in a bunker bubble which destroys the whole world as we know it.
“He should be stopped and he will be stopped. The question is when.”
Putin has been condemned across the world for his indiscriminate targeting of civilians, and today the MPs also highlighted how his forces were committing acts of sexual violence against Ukrainian women.
Vasylenko said atrocities were being committed against the “most vulnerable of the vulnerable”, including elderly women who have been physically unable to leave their homes.
She said there had been reports of women being killed after being raped by Russian soldiers and that some had decided to take their own lives.
Vasylenko also spoke of reports of traumatised children and warned that there would be a “generation of Ukrainians growing up with the burden of war already on their shoulders”.
Many were were already experiencing panic attacks and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Despite the destruction, the MPs said they had been encouraged by the support it had received from the international community even though they wanted more to be done.
“This is the worst of times and it is also the best of times,” Shkrum said.
“I feel super inspired having seen so much good from people, and so much bravery and so much unity.
“It has brought out the best in the whole nation.
“The feeling is completely unreal of what is going on...but I think we will become so much stronger on the other side.”