In a surprise address at Web Summit yesterday, the first lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, called for help from the tech community amid Russia's invasion of her country. "Your chosen profession – your field of expertise – is now a battlefield in Russia’s war against Ukraine,” she said.

She called on Web Summit’s attendees to support the work of the Olena Zelenska Foundation, which provides humanitarian aid and seeks to restore educational and medical facilities in Ukraine. On the Opening Night of Web Summit in Lisbon, the first lady shared accounts of the effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine: “The dystopias we read about in science fiction novels and all the threats of life destruction are much closer than you think. We felt it in Ukraine because of Russian terror – because Russia puts technology at the service of terror.”

Zelenska said technology was now a “battlefield” in the Russian invasion of Ukraine and described how drones and missiles were killing families.

She told the founders, startups, executives, and journalists in the Altice Arena that technology should be used to save people. “I believe that technology should be used to create and to save and help people, not to destroy. I believe that such technology is the future. If it’s not, there simply won't be a future to look forward to,” she said. “You are the force that moves the world. You have potential and technologies that can help, but not destroy. I am certain that, by helping Ukraine, you can move the world in the right direction. So I invite you to do so. Let's do it together.”

Zelenska described the work of her newly established foundation. “I believe that our big victory consists of small ones. Small victories of every person. Victories over cold, hunger and despair,” she said. Web Summit, the world’s largest technology event, this week welcomes more than 70,000 attendees to Lisbon, returning to full capacity following a reduced capacity event in 2021.

Other top speakers at this year’s event include Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, author and linguist Noam Chomsky, Mercedes Principal Toto Wolf, Signal president Meredith Whittaker and Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk.

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