Kate meets Ukraine’s First Lady: President Zelensky’s wife Olena sits down with Princess of Wales at Buckingham Palace before seeing Queen lie in state after travelling to UK from war torn homeland
- Olena Zelenska spoke with Kate after travelling from Ukraine for the funeral
- First Lady of Ukraine had earlier visited Westminster Hall to pay her respects
- She leads the Ukrainian delegation as her husband remains in war-torn Ukraine
- Arrived at the lying in state this afternoon minutes before President Joe Biden
- The Queen’s funeral: All the latest Royal Family news and coverage
The wife of Ukraine’s President Zelensky spoke with the Princess of Wales this afternoon after travelling from her war-torn homeland for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth.
Kate held an audience at Buckingham Palace with the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, who is expected to lead representation for Ukraine at the funeral tomorrow.
The pair, both wearing long black dresses, sat either side of a fireplace on gingham armchairs with pink orchids on display in the background.
Ms Zelenska was earlier spotted entering Westminster Hall, where the late monarch is currently lying in state, just minutes before US President Joe Biden also arrived to pay his respects.
She was pictured shortly before 4.45pm with other members of the Ukrainian contingent, dressed in all black and wearing a golden brooch on her chest.
As she contemplated the solemn occasion, her expression was sombre and she bowed her head in respect.
Ms Zelenska stayed in the hall for several minutes as members of the British public filed past below.
She made the journey to the UK after her husband took time out from organising his country’s fightback against Russia to sign a book of condolence for the Queen.
The wife of Ukraine’s President Zelensky, Olena Zelenska, spoke with the Princess of Wales this afternoon at Buckingham Palace
Ms Zelenska was earlier spotted entering Westminster Hall, where the late monarch is currently lying in state
The UK’s ambassador in Kyiv, Melinda Simmons, said she was ‘deeply honoured’ by the president’s gesture ‘given all else that is happening in (Ukraine) at this time’.
Ms Zelenska’s arrival in the UK had been hotly anticipated after it was confirmed that her husband, President Zelensky, would be remaining at home to lead the war effort.
He will remain in Ukraine as his country continues to battle back Vladimir Putin’s invading forces.
Putin, who has previously had an audience with the Queen, has not been invited, despite offering his condolences to the Royal Family last week.
A line of foreign dignitaries entered Westminster Hall today, including French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte, and US president Joe Biden and his wife Jill.
Ukraine has pushed Russian forces back and made major gains in the east of the country in recent weeks, forcing Russian troops to regroup to protect its remaining held land.
Russia was left reeling by the shock offensive in the east, as Ukraine pulled off a great tactical manoeuvre to convince Putin it was planning an attack in the south.
The cities of Izyum, Kupyansk and Vovchansk, which formed the staging post for Russia’s attacks in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and contain key railway lines to get ammunition and other supplies to its soldiers, are now under Ukrainian control.
Ms Zelenska looked sombre as she entered Westminster Hall to view the coffin of Queen Elizabeth
Kyiv’s rapid advance has now slowed as Russian troops regroup and try to re-establish a frontline, with fighting said to be ongoing around Lyman, Rubizhne, Lysychansk and Severodonetsk.
In the newly freed village of Chkalovske in the Kharkiv region, Svitlana Honchar said the Russians’ departure was sudden and swift.
‘They left like the wind,’ Honchar said Tuesday after loading cans of food aid into her car. ‘They were fleeing by any means they could.’
Some Russians appeared to have been left behind in the hasty retreat. ‘They were trying to catch up,’ she said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena have presented a united front since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. The President took time out of organising his country’s war effort to sign a book of condolences for the Queen
It was not yet clear if the Ukrainian blitz, which unfolded after months of little discernible movement, could signal a turning point in the nearly seven-month war.
In its latest update on the situation in Ukraine, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it is unclear whether Russia’s frontline forces have adequate reserves or morale to withstand another concerted Ukrainian assault in eastern parts of the country.
Despite the superb performance of Ukrainian armed forces, President Zelensky said it was too early to say the tide of the war was turning, and that the outcome hinged on the swift delivery of foreign weapons to his country.
Ms Zelenska appeared alongside other members of the Ukrainian delegation to the UK
Putin, in his first comments on Ukraine’s counteroffensive, brushed off the advances with a smile but warned that Russia would respond more forcefully if its troops were put under further pressure.
Speaking to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg this morning, head of the British Armed Forces Admiral Sir Tony Radakin painted a bleak picture of Russian prospects in Ukraine and what this means for the Kremlin chief.
‘Putin is failing on all of his military strategic objectives. He wanted to subjugate Ukraine – that’s not going to happen,’ Radakin said.
‘He’s under pressure, his problems are mounting, his forces are thin on the ground… at a strategic level, this is a failure for Putin and Ukraine is fighting to maintain their integrity and to gain more of their country back,’ he added.