Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh rubbishes 'brave' claims about Ukraine visit

Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh has rejected suggestions that she was "brave" for visiting Ukraine.

The duchess became the first member of the British royal family to visit the war-torn country since Russia's full-scale invasion in 2022 when she made a brief trip last month but insists the victims of sexual violence during the conflict are the ones who are truly "courageous".

In a diary of her visit for The Sunday Times newspaper, Sophie wrote: "The brave people are those who have endured extreme violence and survived. The courageous are those who have reported the crimes committed against them."

The 59-year-old royal warned that sexual violence during warfare should not be regarded as a "casualty or symptom" of conflict and is instead a "deliberate tactic to overpower".

Sophie - who met with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and First Lady Olena Zelenska and also delivered a message on behalf of King Charles during her one-day visit - said: "It is only more recently that increased recognition has been given to those heinous crimes, and society has come to understand that it is used to demean, destroy and control, with the aftermath long being felt through stigma and devastating physical and mental health repercussions.

"It is a weapon requiring no training, no investment, and it is deployed globally."

When she visited Ukraine, the duchess met survivors of sexual violence and displaced women who are helping the country cope with the trauma of the war by providing mental healthcare activities for children and used a speech to condemn the hideous acts.

Sophie said: "It's true that women and girls pay the highest price in terms of human cost when it comes to the way that they are affected, the way that they can be used as weapons of war.

"Rape is used to demean, to degrade and to destroy, and we have to get better at trying to prevent that from happening."

She continued: "I've been meeting with survivors of sexual violence and the conflict. I thank them for that honesty in telling me what happened to them. Their stories are sad... but I appreciate their time and their openness."