Politics

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has led a minute’s silence from the steps of Downing Street as the UK showed solidarity with Ukraine on the anniversary of the start of the war.

Standing alongside Ukrainian ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, and members of the Ukrainian armed forces, Mr Sunak and his wife, Akshata Murty, observed the silence in front of a blue and yellow wreath on the door of Number 10 to represent the Ukrainian flag.

Ukrainian singers then sang the national anthem to bring the moment of reflection to a close.

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Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Sunak said: “As we mark one year since a full scale war broke out on our continent, I urge everyone to reflect on the courage and bravery of our Ukrainian friends who, every hour since, have fought heroically for their country.

“I am proud that the UK has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine through this horrific conflict. As I stand with brave Ukrainian soldiers outside Downing Street today, my thoughts will be with all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend freedom and return peace to Europe.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also marked the moment on a visit to Cardiff where he had met members of the Ukrainian community.

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King Charles released a statement describing how the Ukrainian people had shown “truly remarkable courage and resilience in the face of such human tragedy”, adding: “I can only hope the outpouring of solidarity from across the globe may bring not only practical aid, but also strength from the knowledge that, together, we stand united.”

And MPs in the Commons paused proceedings to observe the silence from the famous green benches.

Other politicians, including former prime minister Boris Johnson and London mayor Sadiq Khan, attended a prayer service earlier at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in the capital to mark the anniversary.

After a choir of children sang, candles were lit by the congregation and pictures of those who had lost their lives in the war were shown on a screen.

And faith leaders from across the city offered prayers for those living through the war.

Speaking at the event, Mr Khan said: “To those who have been forced to flee your homes, to those who have lost family and friends and to those sick with worry for loved ones in Ukraine – we cant ever know what you are going through, but know that London stands with you.

“We stand up for your rights to live free from fear, free from threats, free from intimidation, violence and terror because these are rights that are fundamental to our way of life. And we recognise Ukrainians are risking their lives, not just for the future of Ukraine, but for the future of Europe.”

Mr Prystaiko also spoke to thank those who supported Ukraine, adding: “This 24 February, this date will remain etched in our memory forever.

“It is a day when the West and the whole world finally understood what was happening and woke up to the challenge.

“You gave us reassurance that we are not alone… we are forever grateful for all of you.”

Mr Johnson did not speak at the event, but received a round of applause as he left after shouting “Salava Ukraini” – meaning “glory to Ukraine”.

Later on Friday, Mr Sunak is expected to use a virtual G7 meeting to urge fellow world leaders to “move faster” to arm Ukraine’s troops.

“For Ukraine to win this war – and to accelerate that day – they must gain a decisive advantage on the battlefield. That is what it will take to shift Putin’s mindset,” he is expected to say.

“This must be our priority now. Instead of an incremental approach, we need to move faster on artillery, armour, and air defence.

“The coming weeks will be difficult for Ukraine, but they will also be difficult for Russia. They are overreaching once again. So now is the time to support Ukraine’s plan to rearm, regroup, and push forward.”

Read more:
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This is how many civilians have lost their lives in Ukraine over the past year

Ukraine has continued to appeal to the West to send fighter jets to help them in their fight.

Their appeal has been backed by former Mr Johnson, who told Sky News on Thursday that the UK needs to “break the ice” by becoming the first country to supply the aircraft.

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14:05

Speaking to Sky News,, Boris Johnson called Vladimir Putin a ‘gangster’ and an ‘adventurer’.

But Mr Sunak and defence secretary Ben Wallace have refused the request.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Wallace said he couldn’t “rule anything in or anything out” in the long-term.

But he added: “We’re not going to send our own typhoon jets in the in the short term to Ukraine. We’ve been quite clear about that.”

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