Orlando Bloom tells President Zelensky ‘the strength of the Ukrainians is awe-inspiring’ as the actor and UN ambassador discusses Putin’s ‘horrific’ war crimes against children
- Bloom is a goodwill ambassador for the UN’s children’s organisation UNICEF
- He visited Irpin, Demydiv and Kyiv – where he met President Zelensky on Sunday
British Hollywood star Orlando Bloom travelled to Ukraine this week to meet children and families impacted by Vladimir Putin’s on-going invasion, where he described the strength of the country’s people as ‘awe inspiring’.
In his role as a goodwill ambassador for the UN children’s organisation UNICEF, the actor spent three days in the country and visited Kyiv, Irpin and Demydiv.
It was his first trip to Ukraine since 2016, the star of the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ films said.
While in Kyiv, he met with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. The pair were seen in footage in the capital’s presidential palace on Sunday where they discussed humanitarian projects and reconstruction efforts to help the children of Ukraine.
Bloom told Zelensky that his messaging since the war began was ‘reflected in [the Ukrainian people’s] courage and determination’, and that the ‘world was watching’ after Putin was charged with war crimes over the deportation of children.
British Hollywood star Orlando Bloom visited Ukraine this week to meet children and families impacted by Vladimir Putin’s on-going invasion, and Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky
While in Kyiv, Bloom (left) met with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky (right). The pair were seen in footage in the capital’s presidential palace on Sunday where they discussed humanitarian projects and reconstruction efforts to help the children of Ukraine
Both men appeared somewhat star struck, embracing and sharing an enthusiastic handshake upon meeting. Zelensky himself was an actor in Ukraine – playing a teacher who becomes president – before his meteoric political rise.
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Since becoming president in reality in 2019, and since the invasion launched by Putin in February 2022, Zelensky has become one of the most famous people in the world, making regular appeals on a global stage for support while drawing praise for his wartime leadership.
‘To see the children, to see in their eyes, its palpable the anxiety and yet the strength of the Ukrainian people is something that is really awe inspiring,’ Bloom told him. ‘And of course your messaging is the reason for that. So it’s remarkable to see how you are holding this country.’
He assured the leader that Unicef is taking the issue of missing children very seriously ‘as the rest of the world is watching’ after Putin was charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court earlier this month.
‘Of course, he who shall not be mentioned was made a war criminal because of this. And it’s so horrific what’s going on,’ he said.
Zelensky thanked Bloom for visiting the country, describing it as ‘strong’ in the face of Russia’s aggression. He played down Bloom’s praise of him personally, saying that everyone in the country was ‘holding’ each other.
He told Bloom that Ukraine was doing everything it could to bring back the missing children from Russia, and that it needed to ensure the infrastructure and facilities are in place to care for them when they are welcomed home.
As of March 26, at least 465 children have been killed in the 13-month long war, according to Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office.
Russia has been accused of the indiscriminate bombing of civilian sites, while the the ICC issued an arrest warrant earlier this month accusing Putin of the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine to Russia.
It said there are reasonable grounds to believe that Putin bears individual criminal responsibility for the crime.
Russian officials have cautioned that any attempt to arrest Putin, Russia’s paramount leader since the last day of 1999, would amount to a declaration of war against the world’s largest nuclear power.
‘I would have never expected the war to have escalated throughout the country since I was there,’ Bloom wrote in a post on Instagram about his visit.
‘But today, I was fortunate to hear children’s laughter at a UNICEF-supported Spilno centre, a safe, warm, and nurturing space for children to play, learn and receive psychosocial support.’
The Spilno centres, spread throughout Ukraine, offer support for displaced children and their families, with more than half a million children and their caregivers having visited one in the past year, according to a UNICEF statement on its website.
In his own post, Zelensky said: ‘We all know what this aggression has brought and how full-scale the world’s efforts must be to stop it, to rebuild Ukraine after the war.
‘During the meeting, we discussed humanitarian aid projects, issues of reconstruction focused specifically on the interests of children. @unicef and our teams will work in several directions, bring victory closer and return a happy childhood to Ukrainian children,’ he added.
‘He knows what this aggression has brought, how full-scale the world’s efforts must be to stop it, to restore Ukraine after the war,’ Zelensky said later in his nightly video address after meeting Bloom.
In addition to Kyiv, Bloom visited Irpin and Demydiv.
As Russian forces pulled back from Kyiv after they failed to seize the city in the first month of the war, soldiers and journalists uncovered horrific scenes in the surrounding towns, such as Irpin and its neighbour Bucha.
Pictured: Actor Orlando Bloom (right) embraces Ukraine’s president Zelensky on Sunday
‘During the meeting, we discussed humanitarian aid projects, issues of reconstruction focused specifically on the interests of children. @unicef and our teams will work in several directions, bring victory closer and return a happy childhood to Ukrainian children,’ Zelensky said
Earlier this month, investigators identified three Russian soldiers who were allegedly involved in the killing of Ukrainian civilians as they tried to escape Irpin in March 2022, as Russian forces edged close to the city.
Russian soldiers shot at ten vehicles leaving Irpin, killing nine people and injuring 12 more, according to investigators.
Demydiv, found around 15 miles north of Irpin and close to the bank of the Dnipro river, was flooded deliberately by Ukraine to slow the Russian advance on Kyiv.
‘When I first came to Ukraine in 2016, I saw the catastrophic consequences that war has on children and families, and how basic needs such as being at school and psychosocial support are critical for children’s wellbeing,’ Bloom said. ‘Now, with children across the entire country affected, that support is more vital than ever.’
The actor travelled to Moldova last year to meet refugee families fleeing Ukraine.
‘Some of the children I have met – such as 10-year-old Hanna from Volnovakha, Donetsk region – have had limited access to face-to-face education for more than a year,’ Blood said of his visit to Ukraine.
‘While UNICEF is helping ensure that children are able to learn online, they are still missing out on the crucial experience of interacting with their classmates and teachers.
‘Especially for younger children, these interactions are key for their emotional and cognitive development and cannot be replaced by a computer screen.’
During his time in Irpin, Bloom visited a school, and later stressed the importance of education for the children whose lives have been turned upside down by war.
‘Amid the chaos and uncertainty of war, supporting children’s education is an essential tool in protecting their long-term mental health and wellbeing,’ said Bloom.
‘This is especially important during their early years, when children develop the learning and emotional skills they need to reach their full potential.’
‘Above all, children need an end to this war and sustained peace to regain their childhoods, return to normalcy and begin to heal and recover,’ he added.
As Russian forces pulled back from Kyiv after they failed to seize the city in the first month of the war, soldiers and journalists uncovered horrific scenes in the surrounding towns, such as Irpin and its neighbour Bucha. Pictured: Civilians take cover under a destroyed bridge in Irpin as they flee Russia’s advancing forces, March 5, 2022
Demydiv, found around 15 miles north of Irpin and close to the bank of the Dnipro river, was flooded deliberately by Ukraine to slow the Russian advance on Kyiv. Pictured: Abandoned homes are seen in Demydiv on February 28, 2023 – a year after the town was flooded
In its first warrant for Ukraine, the ICC called for Putin’s arrest on suspicion of unlawful deportation of children and unlawful transfer of people from the territory of Ukraine to the Russian Federation since Feb. 24, 2022.
The Kremlin says the ICC arrest warrant is an outrageously partisan decision, but meaningless with respect to Russia. Russian officials deny war crimes in Ukraine and say the West has ignored what it says are Ukrainian war crimes.
Big powers such as Russia, the United States and China are not members of the ICC though 123 countries are state parties to the Rome Statute, including Britain, France, Germany and some former Soviet republics such as Tajikistan.
Ukraine is not a member of the ICC, although Kyiv granted it jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed on its territory.
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