Ukrainians are “invincible” and will do everything to secure “victory” for their country in 2023, President Volodymyr Zelensky has said in a defiant address to mark the first anniversary of Russia’s brutal war.
Mr Zelensky said his people are “strong” and “ready for anything” as Russian President Vladimir Putin launches another offensive in the east after suffering a series of setbacks in a faltering campaign that his military strategists believed would be finished in a matter of weeks.
“On February 24, millions of us made a choice,” Mr Zelenksy said. “Not a white flag, but the blue and yellow one. Not fleeing, but facing. Resisting & fighting” “It was a year of pain, sorrow, faith, and unity. And this year, we remained invincible,” he added. “We know that 2023 will be the year of our victory!”
Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv and a former heavyweight champion boxer, also issued a defiant message, saying that “we believe in ourselves and our country. Therefore, we will overcome everything and win.”
Ukraine continues to stand strong in the face of Mr Putin’s bloody and illegal assault, 12 months since Russia’s tanks rolled across the border as the chilling and unmistakable wail of air raid sirens filled the skies of Kyiv on a day that changed the world.
Western military officials estimate casualties on both sides of the largest conflict in Europe since World War Two to be at more than 100,000 killed or wounded. Tens of thousands of civilians also died, while millions more have fled the threat of fighting.
But Yuriy Belousov, Ukraine’s president, told The Independent he believed that the true Ukrainian civilian death toll could be as high 100,000, illustrating the sheer scale of devastation and destruction in the country.
Ukrainian forces prevented a swift victory early in 2022, and the conflict, which Moscow continues to claim is a "special military operation", has become one of grinding trench warfare in the east and south.
With leaders of both countries showing no signs of backing down, the prospects of an end to the fighting any time soon look bleak.
Mr Zelensky, who has been instrumental in garnering financial and military aid from around the world to sustain Ukrainian defences in the face of a much larger army, also praised his people.
"We became one big army," he said. "We have become a team where someone finds, someone packs, someone brings, but everyone contributes."
He described 2022 as a year of resilience, courage, pain, and unity. "Its main conclusion is that we have survived. We had not been defeated. And we will do everything to win this year!"
Britain marked the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine by issuing more sanctions against Russia, including export bans on every item it has used on the battlefield.
The Foreign Office said on Friday the internationally co-ordinated sanctions and trade measures would target aircraft parts, radio equipment and electronic components.
It will also target more Russian executives including those at the nuclear power plant Rosatom and others who work at defence groups and Russian banks.
"Military intelligence has shown that a shortage of components in Russia as a result of sanctions is already likely affecting their ability to produce equipment for export, such as armoured vehicles, attack helicopters and air defence systems," the Foreign Office said.
Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, will urge his counterparts to “move faster” to arm Ukraine at a virtual meeting of the G7 countries later on Friday morning.
The UK parliament will hold a moment’s silence at 11am to remember the sacrifices of all those who have given their lives to defend their country and freedom.
Tributes to Ukraine’s resilience flowed from across the world, including in France, where the Eiffel Tower in Paris was among the monuments illuminated in Ukraine’s colours.
Ukrainians planned memorials, candle vigils and other remembrances for their tens of thousands of dead - a toll growing all the time as fighting rages in eastern Ukraine in particular.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner group of Russian mercenaries, claimed his forces had taken control of Berkhivka - a village on the outskirts of the strategically key town of Bakhmut. The claim could not immediately be verified.
There were concerns that Russia might unleash another barrage of missiles against Ukraine to pile yet more sadness on the day. Air raid alarms did not sound overnight in the capital, Kyiv, and dawn broke quietly.
The government, however. recommended that schools move classes online and office employees were asked to work from home.