National anthem of Ukraine rings out from Edinburgh Castle to mark year of war
Ukraine’s national anthem echoed around the walls of the national war memorial at the top of Edinburgh Castle as a service took place to mark the anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
It has been one year since Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his troops into the country, starting a conflict which has left tens of thousands of people dead and millions displaced.
On Friday, Ukrainian families, representatives from the Scottish and UK governments, members of the armed forces and consuls from countries worldwide gathered to pay tribute to the lives lost so far.
They laid dozens of wreaths at the Scottish National War Memorial, which is located in the castle, during the service.
Led by one of Scotland’s Ukrainian Catholic priests, Father Vasyl Kren, and Karen Campbell, padre to Legion Scotland, the service heard prayers and the call to remembrance, and observed a one-minute silence.
The Last Post and The Rouse were played, before the event ended with the national anthem of Ukraine being sung to an accompanying piper.
The service came after people across Scotland fell silent at 11am for one minute to show their support for Ukrainians.
South of the border, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was joined outside Number 10 by wife Akshata Murthy, Kyiv’s ambassador to Britain Vadym Prystaiko and dozens of Ukrainian troops being trained in the UK for the moment of reflection.
Speaking after the service in Edinburgh, Tanya Balanova, who attended on behalf of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, was full of emotion for the people fighting in her home country.
The 28-year-old said: “It’s been 365 days since our country has been fighting for our identity and our freedom.
“The soldiers are giving their lives for our tomorrow.
“I lay a wreath on behalf of all the displaced Ukrainians.”
She said the memorial service was moving for Ukrainian families, adding: “We have told everyone, all our friends and families, that we here in Scotland are paying our tribute to people of our country.”
Lord Provost of Edinburgh Robert Aldridge, speaking after the service, said it had been “a moving day, especially for the families with loved ones still fighting”.
Speaking on behalf of the city, he added: “Our job here in Edinburgh is to make those people displaced feel as welcome as possible to show that we have complete solidarity with Ukraine.
“Edinburgh stands full-square behind Ukraine.
“We want people from Ukraine and who are displaced and who live here to feel as welcome as possible.
“We really welcome what they are giving to our community to keep Edinburgh vibrant. But we hope those who wish to can return as soon as possible in peace to a victorious Ukraine.”
Mr Aldridge said he was particularly moved when he saw two children lay wreaths at the memorial during the service.
“I presume their fathers are perhaps still fighting in Ukraine,” he said.
🇺🇦 One year on since Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine’s suffering is heart-breaking, but its courage and resilience continue to inspire.
We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, today and always, as they fight for freedom and democracy.#SlavaUkraini 🇺🇦
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) February 24, 2023
Speaking about the location, he added: “This is a real place of sanctuary, and a place where you can reflect on the sacrifices that have been made to allow us to live the lives that we currently live today.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “One year on since Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
“Ukraine’s suffering is heart-breaking, but its courage and resilience continue to inspire.
“We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, today and always, as they fight for freedom and democracy.”
Since the invasion, millions of people have been forced from their homes and have found refuge in the UK with the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.
Neil Gray, the Scottish minister with special responsibility for refugees from Ukraine, said more than 23,000 Ukrainians with a Scottish sponsor have arrived in the UK since last February.
Later on Friday, around 50 peace activists gathered on Princes Street in Edinburgh for a vigil to mark the first anniversary of the war.
They sang and held placards calling for an end to the war.
Lynn Jamieson, chair of Scottish CND, said: “We unequivocally condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
“The unacceptable risks of nuclear war (or a continent-contaminating fire at a nuclear power station such as Chernobyl) have run alongside the hell of killing, destruction and deadly actions.
“These have exacerbated climate change as governments choose to build war machines instead of green transitions. The only gains are by the arms industries whose hike in profits may outpace those of the energy companies.”