Laura Kuenssberg: Ukraine in ‘mortal danger’ without aid, Olena Zelenska warns

Olena Zelenska
Image caption,Ukraine’s first lady spoke to the BBC amid a political stand-off in the US which has seen support held up

By Laura Kuenssberg

BBC News in Kyiv

Olena Zelenska has warned that Ukrainians are in “mortal danger” of being left to die if Western countries don’t continue their financial support.

Ukraine’s first lady spoke to Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg a day after Republican senators in the US blocked a key aid bill.

It would have provided more than $60bn (£47.8bn) worth of support to Ukraine.

Speaking hours after a Russian missile attack, she said: “If the world gets tired, they will simply let us die.”

The White House has warned that US funds for Ukraine could soon run out, but Republicans have held up a deal to authorise more assistance.

They are seeking to secure compromises from President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress on funding for US border measures, in exchange for their support.

President Biden said the failure to agree Ukraine aid would be a “gift” for President Vladimir Putin, warning history would “judge harshly those who turned their back on freedom’s cause”.

Laura Kuenssberg interviewing Olena Zelenska

Nearly two years since Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, the first lady expressed grave concern over delays in funding.

In an exclusive interview to be broadcast on Sunday, Olena Zelenska told the BBC the slowdown in aid represented a “mortal danger” for her country.

She said: “We really need the help. In simple words, we cannot get tired of this situation, because if we do, we die.

“And if the world gets tired, they will simply let us die.”

The first lady continued: “It hurts us greatly to see the signs that the passionate willingness to help may fade.

“It is a matter of life for us. Therefore, it hurts to see that.”

The UK has also been urging politicians in Washington DC to agree a deal for Ukraine.

UK Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said on a visit to Washington this week that the US was the “lynchpin” of the Western coalition backing Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

He urged the US not to give Mr Putin a “Christmas present” by blocking the billions of dollars of financial support required to continue the war against Russian forces.

Graphic showing countries' military contributions to Ukraine

There is little doubt that the international community’s attitude towards Ukraine has shifted.

Full-throated support in Washington DC cannot be guaranteed – and yet the fundamentals of the conflict have not budged.

A country on Europe’s eastern flank is still fighting to repel Russian forces after the Kremlin launched an illegal invasion.

Ukraine surprised the world when its armed forces prevented the country being overrun in February 2022.

Many Western countries surprised them in return with the enthusiasm of their support.

However, Ukraine cannot keep going in the same vein without the wealth and backing of other countries.

The first lady’s warnings seem designed to make that crystal clear.

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