Rachel Riley on Strictly husband Pasha Kovalev’s brother’s escape from Russia

Countdown presenter Rachel Riley lifted the lid on her family’s personal connection to the conflict in Ukraine following Russia’s brutal invasion in an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk earlier this year.

The 37-year-old former Strictly Come Dancing star, who spoke about what it has been like to house Ukrainian refugees, is married to Russian dancer Pasha Kovalev, whom she met on the BBC show.

Asked if living with refugees made her feel more connected to what is going on in Ukraine, as Russia continues its attempts to ruthlessly invade the country, she confirmed that it did.

Oh, definitely,” she replied. “I mean, my husband is Russian so obviously, you know, you’re connected whether you want to be or not.

“His brother had to flee the country,” she continued. “He’s one of the million or so Russians that have left Russia since the war started. Otherwise, he’s in exile.

READ MORE: Rachel Riley ‘rips BBC Newsnight to shreds’ over Hamas stance

“And the people here, one of their sons is on the front line,” she continued gravely. “One of our friends has stopped sleeping and she’s looking after her little girl over here – it’s extremely difficult.

“We’ve had them over here for about a year now and at the start of the war, we were watching everything and you just felt quite helpless.

“So we were willing to help, but then we’ve actually stopped watching the news so much.

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Quizzed on her decision to avoid news coverage of the conflict, she continued: “Because they’re here and you don’t want them to be exposed to it all.

“You know, they’re just going about their day so you don’t want it just to be on the telly. But the last week I’ve been watching what’s going on. It’s just horrendous.”

While the Israel-Hamas conflict is now dominating the news cycle, missiles continue to be launched at Ukraine.

Earlier this year, UN head António Guterres condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an “affront” to the world’s collective conscience at a meeting of the General Assembly.

It comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin sent up to 200,000 soldiers into Ukraine on February 24, 2022 in the biggest European invasion since the end of World War Two.

Nearly two years on from the start of the Russian invasion, the civilian death toll in Ukraine stood a over 9600 as of September 2023, as verified by OHCHR.

Rachel teamed up with travel search engine KAYAK for its Vacay Valuator campaign to help people save and find the best holidays for their budget. Find out more at kayak.co.uk/vacay-valuator.

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