Ukraine: Maternity hospital bombed in Mariupol
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Veronika Didusenko, 26, was awoken on February 25 by air raid sirens and explosions. She immediately embarked on their escape from the country alongside thousands of others. Ms Didusenko attended a press conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
She described how she only had time to grab a few possessions before joining the throng of women and children desperate to flee the capital.
The beauty queen wore the colours of Ukraine as she said: “Directly above my head, dozens of helicopters with their troops were bombing…as I was fleeing with my young son, I could see there was a real air battle above our head.”
Part of their escape involved an arduous car journey to the western border of Ukraine, which was prolonged by massive traffic jams involving thousands of vehicles.
She recounted: “On my…journey to the border of Ukraine, there was no place where sirens would not sound, where rockets and bombs would not explode.”
The horrific journey “was horrible” and included “so many children and mothers just trying to get to the border”.
Didusenko added: “The Russian militaries sometimes stopped and shot innocent people trying to escape.”
The pair made their way to Moldova, 250 miles away from their home in the Ukrainian capital, and then through other European countries to reach Geneva in Switzerland.
The news conference on Tuesday in LA was held by Ms Didusenko and women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred.
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Attorney Allred “commented on additional steps that she believes that the United States should be taking to help Ukrainian mothers and children who are fleeing the war”.
The former Miss Ukraine left her son behind in Switzerland with family in a “heartbreaking” decision, so she could attend the conference in the US.
Her mother and grandparents are thought to still be in Kyiv and Ms Didusenko warned Putin will not cease the war until he achieves the “eradication of everything Ukrainian and Ukraine itself”.
She slammed the response of Western allies, saying that pleas for further help from Ukrainians are “falling on deaf ears in Washington and Europe”.
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Didusenko added: “Ukrainians absolutely have the courage to defend their land and homes, but in order to stop the endless attack from the east and north, they are in desperate need of weapons and ammunition. We will fight for our freedom and yours.”
Ms Didusenko echoed the sentiments of officials in Ukraine who have been asking for a no-fly zone to be implemented over Ukraine.
She said: “Close the skies over Ukraine. People are dying in shelters with no food, no water, no light, no warmth. It is a tragedy. It is terrorism.”
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