On Russian invasion anniversary, Zelensky eyes ‘victory this year’

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed on Friday to do everything to defeat Russia this year, with Kyiv announcing preparations for a counter-offensive on the first anniversary of Europe’s largest conflict since Second World War.

Western allies underlined their unwavering backing for Kyiv, and Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki turned up in person in the Ukrainian capital to send a “clear and measurable signal of further support”.

The United States ramped up sanctions on Russia, this time targeting the country’s banks, military industry and semiconductor access.

Russia remained defiant, with former President Dmitry Medvedev insisting that his country was ready to push its offensive “to the borders of Poland”.

A year ago to the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin stunned the world by sending troops across the border, in a move seen as punishment for Kyiv’s pivot to the West.

The year-long war has devastated swathes of Ukraine, displaced millions, turned Russia into a pariah in the West and, according to Western sources, has caused more than 150,000 casualties on each side.

Explained | The past and present of Russia’s war in Ukraine

The West has imposed increasingly stringent sanctions on Russia and boosted humanitarian aid and arms supplies for Ukraine, leading to warnings from Moscow of a dangerous escalation.

As the war enters its second year, Mr. Zelensky pledged to do everything to defeat the invaders in the next months.

“We endured. We were not defeated. And we will do everything to gain victory this year,” Mr. Zelensky said in a statement released on social media.

Hailing cities that have become bywords for alleged Russian war crimes like Bucha, Irpin and Mariupol as “capitals of invincibility”, he said “we will never rest until the Russian murderers face deserved punishment”.

Separately, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov announced that “there will be a counteroffensive”.

“We are working hard to prepare and secure it,” he said.

Anti-war protests are planned across European capitals to mark the invasion anniversary, while in central Berlin, activists have placed a bombed out Russian tank in front of the Russian embassy.

In Paris, the Eiffel Tower was illuminated in the yellow and blue colours of the Ukrainian flag, while in London, MPs and diplomats will pray at a Ukrainian cathedral.

Russian troops had marched into Ukraine with the goal of a rapid conquest leading to capitulation and the installation of a pro-Moscow regime.

But they failed to conquer Kyiv and have since suffered defeats in northeastern and southern Ukraine.

Since October, Russia has pummelled Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, leading to power shortages that have left millions in the cold and dark.

Despite the daily trials, Ukrainians said they refused to be cowed.

“This has been the most difficult year of my life and that of all Ukrainians,” Diana Shestakova, 23, said in Kyiv.

“I am sure that we will be victorious, but we don’t know how long we will have to wait.”

Bucha resident Galyna Gamulets, 64, who recalls coming under fire from Russian troops for “more than two weeks”, voiced pride for her nation and said that “we will succeed” in repelling the invaders.

According to a recent Ukrainian poll, 17% of respondents said they had lost a loved one in the war.

Around 95% of Ukrainians say they are confident of Kyiv’s victory.

The United States, which has been leading efforts to bolster Kyiv militarily, on Friday announced sweeping sanctions not only aimed at Russia but also hitting “over 200 individuals and entities” across Europe, Asia and the Middle East that are supporting Moscow’s war.

G-7 countries, which were holding a virtual summit later Friday, are also expected to launch a new agency aimed at blocking attempts at circumventing existing sanctions.

The new aid package from Washington came days after President Joe Biden himself travelled to Kyiv to pledge new arms deliveries.

On Thursday, the United Nations voted overwhelmingly to demand Russia “immediately” and “unconditionally” withdraw its troops from Ukraine.

But key players China and India abstained in the vote, as fears rose in the West that Beijing was considering arming Russia.

Beijing has furiously denied accusations and sought to position itself as a neutral party while maintaining close ties with Russia.

Releasing a 12-point position paper on Friday, Beijing urged Ukraine and Russia to hold peace talks as soon as possible.

“All parties should support Russia and Ukraine in working in the same direction and resuming direct dialogue as quickly as possible,” said the paper.

Western allies were cautious in their reception of the call.

“Every constructive suggestion that brings us closer on the path to a just peace is highly welcome. Whether global power China wants to play such a constructive role is still doubtful,” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

On the frontline in eastern Ukraine, Kyiv’s troops pledged to drive out Moscow’s forces.

“God is helping us. Nobody thought that Ukraine would hold,” said a soldier who goes by the call sign “Cook”.

“I know that miracles happen,” said the soldier from the 95th Separate Air Assault Brigade in the eastern region of Donetsk.

Despite military setbacks and sanctions, Mr. Putin, 70, has refused to back down, accusing the West of supporting neo-Nazi forces and claiming Russia’s survival was at stake.

“We are protecting people’s lives, our native home,” Mr. Putin said in his state of the nation address on Tuesday. “And the goal of the West is endless power.”

Mr. Putin’s assault on Ukraine and mobilisation of reservists have sparked what might be Russia’s largest mass exodus since the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.

But with television propaganda in overdrive and dissenting voices stifled, many Russians have rallied behind Mr. Putin despite economic trouble and multiplying casualties.

“The country is really changing for the better,” said Lyubov Yudina, a 48-year-old security guard in Moscow.

But Ruslan Melnikov, a 28-year-old teacher said: “I don’t see any future now.”

Source link

#Russian #invasion #anniversary #Zelensky #eyes #victory #year

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *