Duchess of Edinburgh Becomes First British Royal to Visit Ukraine Since Russian Invasion Began

Sophie, the Duchess of Edinburgh, became the first member of the British royal family to visit Ukraine since Russia launched its full scale invasion of the country in February 2022. Sophie is the wife of Edward, the youngest child of Queen Elizabeth II, and brother of Charles.

The Duchess met Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and First Lady Olena Zelenska during the Monday visit. She toured Bucha to “demonstrate solidarity with the women, men, and children impacted by the war.”

While there, she laid down flowers at a memorial site in Bucha commemorating the victims during the Russian occupation. Ukrainian authorities in April 2022 accused departing Russian forces of committing war crimes in a scene reminiscent of “a horror movie.” Zelenska also met with survivors of sexual violence and torture.

Sophie has been focused on championing the rights of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence for several years, announcing her commitment to the U.K.’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative in 2019. “Women and girls pay the highest price in terms of human costs,” she said on Monday at an evening reception at the residence of the U.K.’s ambassador to Ukraine, Melinda Simmons. “Rape is used to demean, to degrade, and to destroy.”

The royal family, which is usually careful about staying neutral on most matters of politics, has been unusually outspoken about its support for Ukraine.

King Charles referred to Russia’s invasion as a “unprovoked attack” in a statement this past February. “I continue to be greatly encouraged that the United Kingdom and our allies remain at the forefront of international efforts to support Ukraine at this time of such great suffering and need,” he said.

In March 2023, the Prince of Wales visited on a “personal mission” and praised British troops working near the Ukraine border.

And in February, the Queen met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Clarence House where they discussed how the U.K. can best support Ukraine.

The U.K. has pledged nearly £5 billion in non-military aid to Ukraine since the war broke out, including over £660 million of bilateral assistance that prioritizes women and girls.