ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA - SEPTEMBER 01: Olena Zelenska looks on as her husband, Ukrainian President Volo...

The Ukrainian First Lady's Insta Posts Show The Upsetting Reality In Ukraine

The city of Mariupol is under siege.

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images News/Getty Images

As Russia continues its invasion and occupation of Ukraine, people all over the world can’t help but feel helpless — including some of the country’s most prominent political figures. Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska’s Instagram posts show the reality of what’s happening on the ground in combat zones, and it’s undeniably upsetting. If a single photo is worth a thousand words, these images speak volumes about the tragedies unfolding during the Russian invasion. Warning: This post includes images that some readers may find disturbing.

“It's scary to observe. But we, who are alive, must look at it and never forget,” Zelenska captioned in a March 15 post, right alongside a harrowing photoset showing the city of Mariupol in ruins. The post contained seven images in total, and included photos of buildings torn apart by air strikes, families desperately trying to escape Russian fire, and one image of a mass grave. “Mass graves in Mariupol,” Zelenska added. “This city is bleeding. More than two thousand people died during 19 days of the war.”

Another post from March 9 showed what Zelenska described as a video of the aftermath of a Russian airstrike on a hospital in Mariupol, with burned-out cars and the building still smoking. “That's a terrifying video, but we can't see the worst yet. We do not know how many mothers and children were killed and injured,” she wrote.

On Feb. 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared an invasion on Ukraine after months of reinforcing the Russian-Ukrainian border with military troops and supplies. Since then, over two million Ukrainian residents have fled their homes to escape war and violence, and millions more are internally displaced by the conflict.

Mariupol, in southeastern Ukraine, has been under under siege. The city has been operating a resistance “with no light, no heat, no water, no food, no medicine,” Zelenska writes. On March 13, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned the siege had become a humanitarian crisis as aid efforts have been continually thwarted by Russian forces. “Once again, the Ukrainian humanitarian convoy is trying to reach Mariupol. Each time, the Russians violate all agreements and fire on the path that must be completely safe. And we have seen such violations of international humanitarian law with the corridors of Polog, Izyum, Energodar, Kyiv region.” Russia has been accused of blocking humanitarian agreements intended to let aid reach civilians in the embattled areas.

Like her husband, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Zelenska has spent the past weeks since the Feb. 24 Russian invasion using her platform to make public pleas to the international community for aid and awareness. Zelenskyy, a former television comedian, has proven himself as an inspiring and effective leader to the Ukrainian people during this crisis, rallying support and morale both inside his borders and in the international community at large. Meanwhile, the first lady’s Instagram — formerly made up of traditional first lady fare like healthy eating discussions, diplomatic welcomes, and holiday decorations — is now full of posts about resistance fighters and children with cancer fleeing the violence of the invasion.

As of March 16, the official death toll in Ukraine’s Mariupol remains largely unknown. While local officials have counted more than 2,500 lives lost, many bodies can’t be counted because of the endless attacks by occupying Russian forces. Zelenska described the ongoing attacks as “genocide” in a March 15 written exchange with ABC News. “I guess my message is very similar to the one the whole world delivers. Only two simple words,” she said, “STOP WAR.”

Until the world listens, the violence will go on. In the meantime, there are small ways you can help Ukrainians by donating your money, time, and attention.