The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have pledged their support for Ukraine as they revealed their eldest children have been questioning them about the conflict.
William and Kate’s comments came when they met volunteers at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre in London, who were filling lorries with aid to support the humanitarian relief effort following the Russian invasion.
The second in line to the throne told them that Britain and the rest of Europe were united behind them and spoke of the shock at seeing war on European soil.
William, 39, said Britons were more used to seeing conflict in Africa and Asia. “It’s very alien to see this in Europe. We are all behind you,” he said.
But he added that he, like many, wanted to do more to help. “We feel so useless,” he said.
William and Kate, 40, wore Ukrainian yellow and blue solidarity badges and took trays of chocolate brownies and granola bars, homemade at Kensington Palace, for the volunteers working at the centre in nearby Holland Park.
They offered assistance from their charitable foundation for children and young people suffering mental health problems and trauma from the war, and said their eldest children, Prince George, aged eight, and six-year-old Princess Charlotte, had been affected by the unfolding tragedy.
“Ours have been coming home asking all about it,” William said. “They are obviously talking about it with their friends at school.”
He suggested he had found it difficult discussing some of it with his children, adding he had to “choose my words carefully to explain what is going on”.
The royal couple spent an hour chatting to some of the volunteers working daily at the centre, a social club, to send aid to a hub in western Ukraine and on to people on the front line.
In the club, packed with boxes of first aid, over-the-counter medicines, food for babies and adults, and military coats and socks, they spoke to volunteers taking calls from people all over Britain offering assistance.
Many of the calls come from the diaspora, some of the 100,000 Ukrainians living in Britain and worried about their friends and families, but others here have been eager to help as well.
The couple were shown around by the Ukrainian ambassador Vadym Prystaiko, his wife Inna Prystaiko, and Inna Hryhorovych, who set up the relief operation.
William and Kate spoke to them and the other volunteers about the crisis and listened to their fears that Russian president Vladimir Putin will unleash a third world war unless he can be stopped in Ukraine.
They spoke about the dangers of a second disaster at Chernobyl and also of the impact on the rest of Europe of losing Ukraine’s agricultural output.
William said: “The irony is it brings Europe closer together.
“Europe is closer together than it’s ever been before because of Ukraine.”
In a hall still packed with aid boxes on the stage and full to the brim until it was cleared when the last lorries went out, he praised the people of Ukraine for their spirit and the volunteers for their commitment.
“We have seen a lot of that Ukrainian spirit already,” he told them. “Keep together. Everyone is there for you.”
He added: “We feel for you, we really do.”
He and Kate gladly posed for photos with the volunteers, saying it was the least they could do.
“They had been supposed to help with packing but in the crowded chaos it did not happen.
The duchess suggested returning to do that, “I think we need to come and help out here”, Kate said “Give you some respite.”
In a side room, the royals and their hosts spoke with Saleh Saeed, chief executive of the Disasters Emergency Committee, a group of 15 charities channelling humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
His key message was the humanitarian crisis is set to last for months, possibly years, no matter when the fighting stops and the most important thing the British public can do to help is to send money, rather than old coats or other items.
“The British people have been incredibly generous.
“They have given £132 million over the last six days,” he said. “But this is not going to be over soon. The most important thing is for people to give more money so that charities and the people of Ukraine can buy what they need with dignity.”
As the press were ushered out of the meeting, the ambassador was telling William and Kate about the problems facing Ukrainian refugees trying to get to Britain.
He suggested the European Union’s system of taking refugees was better.