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.
In Pictures | A look back at the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Inhabitants of Kyiv leave the city following pre-offensive missile strikes of the Russian and Belarus armed forces on February 24, 2022, in the Ukrainian capital. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his decision to launch a “special military operation” in eastern Ukraine, on February 24. Even though he stated there were no plans to occupy Ukrainian territory, within minutes of Mr. Putin’s announcement, explosions were reported in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, and the Donbas, thus launching a full-scale war between the two countries.
In this screengrab taken from a video released by the Russian Presidential Press Service, Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation in Moscow on February 24, 2022. Russian troops launched their anticipated attack on Ukraine, as Mr. Putin cast aside international condemnation and sanctions and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere would lead to “consequences you have never seen.”
People wait for buses at a bus station as they attempt to evacuate the city on February 24, 2022, in Kyiv, Ukraine. More than eight million Ukrainian refugees were registered across Europe in the last year, according to UNHCR.
Police officers look at collected fragments of the Russian rockets that hit Kharkiv, Ukraine, on December 3, 2022. On February 28, 2022, a series of rocket strikes by the Russian Armed Forces killed 9 civilians and wounded 37 more during the battle of Kharkiv. The Russian Army used cluster munition in the attack. Due to the indiscriminate nature of these weapons used in densely populated areas, Human Rights Watch described these strikes as a possible war crime.
People remove debris at the site of a military base building, that, according to the Ukrainian ground forces, was destroyed by an air strike, in the town of Okhtyrka in the Sumy region, in northeastern Ukraine on February 28, 2022. As on March 1, 2022, over 90 people were killed including 75 Ukrainian soldiers and ten civilians. More than 600 Indian students were stranded in a university located in Sumy before they were evacuated.
Russian trenches and firing positions sit in the highly radioactive Red Forest adjacent to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant near Chernobyl, Ukraine, on April 16, 2022. Thousands of tanks and troops rumbled into the forested exclusion zone around the plant in the earliest hours of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, churning up highly contaminated soil from the site of the 1986 accident that was the world’s worst nuclear disaster. Russian troops began leaving the nuclear plant after soldiers got “significant doses” of radiation at the highly contaminated site.
Funeral workers carry a coffin containing the body of an unidentified civilian who died in the Bucha community territory during the Russian occupation period in February-March 2022. At Bucha, a town neighbouring Irpen, just 37 km northwest of the capital, Reuters journalists saw bodies lying in the streets, and the hands and feet of multiple corpses poking out of a still open grave at a church ground. In Bucha alone, hundreds of people were killed prompting Ukraine to term it a massacre.
A view of a destroyed facility on the territory of Azovstal steel mill during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine. On May 21, 2022, Russia claimed to have captured Mariupol in what became one of the biggest victories in its war with Ukraine, after a nearly three-month siege that reduced much of the strategic port city to a smoking ruin.
A view of a destroyed facility on the territory of Azovstal steel mill during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine. The Azovstal steel plant, a Soviet-era structure became a symbol of resistance, with around 600 soldiers holed up in underground tunnels and bunkers fighting a rear-guard battle to prevent Russian troops from taking full control of the strategically located port city.
Smoke rises from an air defence base in the aftermath of an apparent Russian strike in Mariupol, Ukraine, on February 24, 2022. During the southern Ukraine offensive of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the city of Odesa and the surrounding region have been the target of shelling and air strikes by Russian forces on multiple occasions since the conflict began, fired predominantly from Russian warships situated offshore in the Black Sea. The city has also been targeted by Russian cruise missiles. As of July 26, 2022, as a result of rocket attacks in Odesa, eleven civilians were killed.
Service members of pro-Russian troops drive armoured vehicles during the Ukraine-Russia conflict on a road outside the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine.
A sailor looks at the Russian missile cruiser Moskva moored in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Sevastopol, Ukraine. Russia’s guided-missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of the country’s Black Sea fleet, sank on April 14. The ship, which would normally have about 500 sailors aboard, was located in the Black Sea somewhere off the Ukrainian port of Odesa at the time of the explosion. Russian Defence Ministry acknowledged that Moskva sunk in stormy seas following a major fire aboard the ship that caused an explosion. Ukraine, meanwhile, claimed that the fire broke out after its anti-ship missiles Neptune hit the vessel.
Ukrainian service members load ammunition during offensive and assault drills, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia Region, Ukraine. Nine days into its destructive military operation, Russia captured Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power plant on March 4, by shelling and causing a fire to break out.
Russian rockets launched against Ukraine from Russia’s Belgorod region are pictured at dawn in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, was one of the early targets of the Russian invasion. Russian troops made quick advances towards the gates of the city in the early days of the war but were stopped by Ukrainian resistance. Having failed to take the city, the Russians then tried to encircle it and continued to shell the defensive lines. But by May, when their main battlefront focus shifted towards Donetsk and Luhansk in the east, Russian troops withdrew from the outskirts of Kharkiv city.
A hole is seen at the site where a missile strike hit a residential area, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, Ukraine. The Battle of Donbas is an ongoing military offensive that is part of the wider eastern Ukraine campaign of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. The battle began on April 18, 2022 between the armed forces of Russia and Ukraine for control of the Donbas provinces (oblasts) of Donetsk and Luhansk. By June 23, 2022, Russian officials claimed to control 55% of Donetsk oblast, and by July 3, Russia claimed to control all of Luhansk oblast, with Russian and separatist forces controlling the cities of Mariupol, Sievierodonetsk, Lysychansk, Rubizhne.
Ukrainian Prisoners of War (POWs) pose for a picture after a swap, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in an unknown location, Ukraine, in this handout picture released on February 16, 2023.
A Ukrainian serviceman looks on from inside a tank at a position in the Donetsk region, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues.
A girl stands next to graffiti of a child throwing a man on the floor in judo clothing on a destroyed building on November 14, 2022, in Borodyanka, Ukraine. In early March 2022, Kherson was captured by Russia through intense fighting.
A Ukrainian serviceman carries captured anti-tank grenade launchers at a former position of Russian soldiers in the village of Blahodatne, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in the Kherson region. The battle of Kherson proved to be the starting point for capturing and occupying the southern part of Ukraine. Ukraine then launched a lightning counter-offensive in the country’s northeast that saw surprising territorial gains. Russia retreated from Kherson, allowing Ukraine to reclaim swaths of nearby territory occupied since shortly after the Russian invasion.
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi visits the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine in Chernobyl, Ukraine. Russian troops moved into the radiation-contaminated Chernobyl exclusion zone in February on their way toward the Ukrainian capital. They withdrew later after soldiers got “significant doses” of radiation at the highly contaminated site.
Ukrainian Border Guards are seen at their positions near the border with Belarus, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine in the Volyn region. In October 2022, the leader of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko claimed Ukraine was plotting to attack his country and announced a joint force with Moscow. Mr. Lukashenko also told Russian journalists the Belarusian army and its 70,000 people would constitute the “base” of this joint force.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gestures as he poses for media during the European leaders’ summit, amid his second international trip since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Brussels, Belgium on February 9, 2023.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko talk during their meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence, outside Moscow, Russia on February 17, 2023. There has been constant Russian and Belarusian military activity for months in Belarus, a close Kremlin ally that Moscow’s troops used as a launch pad for their abortive attack on Kyiv in February.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy embrace after their visit to the Wall of Remembrance to pay tribute to killed Ukrainian soldiers, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine on February 20, 2023.
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.”
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