LOS ANGELES, Calif. (KRON) — Miss Ukraine 2018 is urging the United States to help mothers who are fleeing with their children from Russia’s military invasion.
Veronika Didusenko said Russian President Vladimir Putin is waging an unprovoked war where children are being killed in the crossfire. In the first week of the war, more than 50 children were killed and an estimated 800 were injured, she said.
Didusenko held a news conference Tuesday with women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred in Los Angeles on International Women’s Day.
Didusenko described her own experience fleeing with her 7-year-old son from Kyiv while Russian military bombs fell from the sky.
“On February 24, my 7-year-old son and I were awakened by sirens and explosions. Kyiv, a city of more than three million people … was asleep.”
“In between raids, we, along with tens of thousands of other families, tried to get out of the city. Thousands of cars formed a traffic jam on the highway on the way out of Kyiv for many hours. Directly above my head, dozens of Russian helicopters with troops were bombing the Gostomel airfield,” Didusenko said.
“As I was fleeing with my young son, I could see that there was a real air battle above our heads,” she said.
Didusenko and her son escaped over Ukraine’s southwestern border. They traveled across Moldova, Romania, and Luxembourg before reaching a friend’s house in Switzerland.
Allred said, “We want to highlight both the courage and the suffering of the mothers and the children of Ukraine who have been fleeing through bombing, shooting, fires, and destruction all around them to get to safety with and for their children. Many have lost their homes, many are separated from their husbands who must stay and fight the Russian military.”
Didusenko said she went to a US embassy to obtain a travel visa for her son, but it was denied.
Miss Ukraine urged the United States to open its borders to more refugees, especially mothers and children who are in limbo without a safe place to live.
Allred said US President Joe Biden urgently needs to grant Ukrainian refugees “humanitarian parole,” which would allow them to enter and stay in the United States without a visa.
U.N. officials said 2 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s attack began.
For days, as Moscow’s forces have laid siege to Ukrainian cities, attempts to create corridors to safely evacuate civilians have stumbled amid continuing fighting and objections to the proposed routes. The Russian military has denied firing on convoys.
Across the country, thousands are thought to have been killed, both civilians and soldiers, in nearly two weeks of fighting.
Miss Ukraine described the current situation in her native country as dire.
“Cities are on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe,” Didusenko said.
“The Kremlin called the invasion of my country of 40 million people not a war. They invented that story, and it is nothing but Russian propaganda. (Putin) behaves like a Nazi in every war crime he commits,” Didusenko said.
“Putin said he would not bomb civilian targets, but then why did he bomb the maternity hospital of Zhytomyr city, the orphanage in the city of Vorzel in Ukraine, the kindergarten in the urban village of Stanytsia Luhanska in Ukraine, the school of the Ukrainian city Akhtyrka, the University in the city of Kharkiv
and the hospital in the city of Chernihiv in Ukraine?” she asked.
“Putin’s military attacked citizens … as they tried to evacuate using an agreed upon humanitarian corridor,” Didusenko said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.