Crowds gather in Trafalgar Square for vigil marking anniversary of Ukraine war
Large crowds have gathered in Trafalgar Square for a vigil marking the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Oscar-winning actress Dame Helen Mirren read a poignant poem at the event on Thursday evening, while Defence Secretary Ben Wallace also spoke.
Russia’s war in Ukraine began on February 24, 2022.
At 6pm on Thursday, on the eve of the conflict’s anniversary, hundreds of people gathered in central London in solidarity with the invaded nation, at an event jointly co-ordinated by the US and Ukraine embassies.
A large screen was lit up with the phrase ‘slava Ukraini’ - ‘glory to Ukraine’ - a Ukrainian national salute that has become known as the battlecry of the fight-back against Moscow.
Videos showed crowds draped in Ukrainian flags, joining in as singer-songwriter Jamala Bird performed Ukrainian songs on-screen.
Ukrainian pop-rock band Antytila also performed via video link, accompanied by a live dance performance in Trafalgar Square.
Event marking one year since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine just getting underway on Trafalgar Square right now. pic.twitter.com/jrKaJfU9uc
— Chris McBride 🇺🇦 (@McChris85) February 23, 2023
Academy award-winning actress Dame Helen recited an English translation of Ukrainian poem Take Only What Is Most Important, by Serhiy Zhadan.
At the poem’s conclusion, Dame Helen added: “Peace for Ukraine, democracy for Ukraine and freedom for Ukraine.”
Defence Secretary Mr Wallace was met with cheers as he addressed the crowd, saying: “This time last year we weren’t supposed to be here. President Putin had a plan that in three weeks he would have dominated Ukraine, sent people to filtration camps and eventually have turned that country, your wonderful country, into merely a pawn for his ambitions.
“All of you here from Ukraine, the bravery of your country’s men and women who have stood against this aggression, this illegal war, this challenge to freedom, democracy and human rights should be incredibly proud of what you are standing for.”
He added that all political parties in the UK “fully support” efforts to “make sure Putin is defeated in Ukraine and his army is sent home”.
Mr Wallace told the crowd that Britain trained 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers last year and said it will train another 20,000.”
Iconic images from Russia Ukraine Crisis
He went on: “Like Ukraine, Britain remembers what it was like to stand alone against overwhelming odds when many people thought we didn’t have a chance in 1939.”
Calling Ukrainian soldiers the “bravest of the brave”, he said: “You not only showed Russia, you showed us all when you stand up for human rights and your country anything is possible.”
We're at the Trafalgar Square vigil for Ukraine watching a powerful performance by Ukrainian singer and musician @JamalaBird #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/bdipipE9ex
— Westminster City Council (@CityWestminster) February 23, 2023
At 11am on Friday, people across the UK have been invited by Rishi Sunak to observe a minute’s silence to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia invading Ukraine.
The Prime Minister said the national moment will pay tribute to Ukrainians and highlight the UK’s solidarity with the country, two weeks after president Volodymyr Zelensky visited.
On Thursday, the eve of the one-year anniversary, the UK’s Defence Secretary suggested the war could rage on for at least another year.
Ben Wallace said the way Russian President Vladimir Putin was content to operate his army like a “meat grinder” meant “he is not going to stop” despite incurring horrific casualties.
The Cabinet minister’s comments were released on the eve of the one-year anniversary of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, a bloody conflict that has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions of civilians displaced.
The former Scots Guard, in an interview with LBC, also said he was “open” to sending more British tanks to Kyiv and suggested Ukraine was likely to receive fighter jets from Nato member countries.
Vigil for Ukraine on eve of one year anniversary of Russian invasion begins in London’s Trafalgar Square. @antytila_offic and @JamalaBird to perform. pic.twitter.com/WVjABTgSKK
— Howard Johnson (@Howardrjohnson) February 23, 2023