Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh visits Ukraine in royal first since Russia’s invasion

The Duchess later said she would take the stories she had heard home in her heart.

Speaking at an evening reception at the residence of Martin Harris, the UK ambassador to Ukraine, she also thanked the survivors she had met for their honesty.

She said she had travelled to many countries in conflict or post-conflict, where “women and girls pay the highest price in terms of human costs”.

The Duchess added: “Rape is used to demean, to degrade and to destroy. And we have to get better at trying to prevent that from happening. Where we cannot prevent it from happening. What we must do is put measures in place to support those who have fallen victim to such crimes.”

Sophie said if the survivors she had met: “Their stories are sad. I hear many stories like this, sadly, from around the world. But I appreciate their time and their openness.”

The Duchess added that she had met people who “played a large role in Bucha and Irpin” to help their communities, and that she would “take those stories home in my heart”.

Duchess dedicated to fighting sexual violence in conflict

The Duchess announced her commitment to championing the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative and the UN’s Women, Peace and Security Agenda on International Women’s Day in 2019.

She has visited several countries over the years to highlight the impact of historical and ongoing conflict, including Kosovo, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Colombia, and has heard first-hand testimonies from survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.

The UK has pledged more than £4.7 billion in non-military support to Ukraine since 2022, including over £660 million of bilateral assistance that prioritises the needs of women and girls.

The Government is also working with international partners to hold those responsible for atrocities to account.

In addition to providing financial and technical assistance to the International Criminal Court, specialist UK war crimes and conflict-related sexual violence experts have been deployed to the region, creating an expert Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group with the EU and US.

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