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Kate Middleton meets Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska

Ukrainian President Zelensky’s wife spoke to the Princess of Wales this afternoon after traveling from her war-torn homeland for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.

Kate held an audience at Buckingham Palace with Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, who is expected to lead Ukraine’s delegation at the funeral tomorrow.

The couple, both wearing long black dresses, sat on either side of a fireplace on gingham armchairs with pink orchids on display in the background.

Mrs Zelenska was earlier seen entering Westminster Hall, where the late monarch currently lies in state, 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 gold brooch on her chest.

As she contemplated the solemn occasion, her expression was somber and she bowed her head in respect.

Ms Zelenska remained in the chamber for several minutes as members of the British public filed past below.

She made the trip to Britain after her husband took time out from organizing his country’s backlash against Russia to sign a book of condolence for the Queen.

Ukrainian President Zelensky's wife, Olena Zelenska, spoke with the Princess of Wales this afternoon at Buckingham Palace
Ukrainian President Zelensky's wife, Olena Zelenska, spoke with the Princess of Wales this afternoon at Buckingham Palace

Ukrainian President Zelensky’s wife, Olena Zelenska, spoke with the Princess of Wales this afternoon at Buckingham Palace

Ms Zelenska was earlier seen entering Westminster Hall, where the late monarch currently lies in state
Ms Zelenska was earlier seen entering Westminster Hall, where the late monarch currently lies in state

Ms Zelenska was earlier seen entering Westminster Hall, where the late monarch currently lies in state

The British ambassador to Kiev, Melinda Simmons, said she was “deeply honoured” by the president’s gesture “given everything else that is happening in (Ukraine) at this time”.

Mrs Zelenska’s arrival in the UK had been widely anticipated after it was confirmed that her husband, President Zelensky, would stay at home to lead the war effort.

He will remain in Ukraine while his country continues to fight 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 number 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 back Russian forces and made major advances in the east of the country in recent weeks, forcing Russian troops to regroup to protect the remaining land.

Russia was left reeling from the shock offensive in the east as Ukraine staged a major tactical maneuver to convince Putin it was planning an attack in the south.

The cities of Izyum, Kupyansk and Vovchansk, which formed staging posts for Russia’s offensive in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and contain important rail lines for getting ammunition and other supplies to its soldiers, are now under Ukrainian control.

Mrs Zelenska looked somber as she entered Westminster Hall to view Queen Elizabeth's coffin
Mrs Zelenska looked somber as she entered Westminster Hall to view Queen Elizabeth's coffin

Mrs Zelenska looked somber as she entered Westminster Hall to view Queen Elizabeth’s coffin

Kyiv’s rapid advance has now slowed as Russian troops regroup and try to re-establish a front line, with fighting said to be ongoing around Lyman, Rubizhne, Lysychansk and Severodonetsk.

In the recently liberated village of Chkalovske in the Kharkiv region, Svitlana Honchar said the Russians’ departure was sudden and swift.

“They went like the wind,” Honchar said Tuesday after loading cans of food aid into his car. “They escaped in any way 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 to organize his country's war effort to sign a condolence book for the Queen
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena have presented a united front since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.  The President took time to organize his country's war effort to sign a condolence book for the Queen

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena have presented a united front since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. The President took time to organize his country’s war effort to sign a condolence book for the Queen

It was not yet clear whether the Ukrainian blitz, which came after months of little noticeable movement, could signal a turning point in the nearly seven-month war.

In its latest update on the situation in Ukraine, the Defense Ministry said it is unclear whether Russia’s frontline forces have sufficient reserves or morale to withstand another joint Ukrainian attack in the eastern parts of the country.

Despite the outstanding performance of the Ukrainian armed forces, President Zelensky said it was too early to say the war was turning and that the outcome depended on the rapid delivery of foreign weapons to his country.

Ms Zelenska appeared alongside other members of the Ukrainian delegation to the UK
Ms Zelenska appeared alongside other members of the Ukrainian delegation to the UK

Ms Zelenska appeared alongside other members of the Ukrainian delegation to the UK

Putin, in his first comments on Ukraine’s counteroffensive, dismissed the progress 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, the head of the British Armed Forces, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, painted a bleak picture of Russian prospects in Ukraine and what that means for the Kremlin boss.

“Putin is failing all of his military strategic goals. He wanted to subjugate Ukraine – that’s not going to happen, Radakin said.

“He is under pressure, his problems are increasing, his forces are thin on the ground… on a strategic level this is a failure for Putin and Ukraine is fighting to preserve their integrity and get more of their land back,” he added.

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