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First British royal visits Ukraine since Russian invasion began

The Duchess of Edinburgh has become the first member of the British royal family to visit Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in 2022, Buckingham Palace announced on Monday.

Sophie, the Duchess of Edinburgh, who is the wife of Prince Edward, King Charles’ youngest sibling, travelled to Ukraine on Monday to “show her solidarity with survivors of conflict-related sexual violence and torture,” the palace said.

The duchess is a champion of the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative and the United Nations’ Women, Peace and Security Agenda.

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Sophie met survivors of conflict-related sexual violence and torture, as well as children who were allegedly forcibly separated from their families by Russia, according to Buckingham Palace.

“Survivors here and around the world have spoken out so bravely about their experiences,” the Duchess of Edinburgh said. “They are the most powerful advocates who remind us all that we must not turn our backs on the horrors of this crime, we must never forget survivors.”

“Rather, we must stand shoulder to shoulder with all survivors to secure justice and holistic redress, and ensure that this crime isn’t an accepted part of conflict,” she said, adding that the survivors’ “rights and their voices must be at the heart of all our efforts to consign conflict-related sexual violence to the history books.”

Sophie paid her respects to those who died in Bucha, a suburb of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, which was briefly occupied by Russia at the start of its full-scale invasion. Hundreds of civilians, including women, children and the elderly, were killed indiscriminately during the month-long occupation.

The duchess also met with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and First Lady Olena Zelenska to discuss support for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, as well as the role of women in ensuring that Ukraine’s “recovery and reconstruction is effective and long-lasting,” Buckingham Palace said.

Sophie has previously visited countries including Kosovo, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Colombia to highlight the impact of conflict on survivors, hearing first-hand accounts from those who have experienced conflict-related sexual violence.

In March 2023, Prince William visited the Ukrainian-Polish border to meet British and Polish troops and learn more about their collaboration in supporting Ukraine.

This post appeared first on cnn.com

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