Zelenskyy hails Ukraine’s ‘invincibility’ as Russians change tactic


Ukrainians have proven themselves to be “invincible”, a defiant Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said, as he attended a parade and memorial service out in the open in central Kyiv – marking a year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On a day of commemorations and defiance, the Ukrainian president presented awards in the capital outside St Sophia Cathedral to surviving soldiers and civilians – wives and daughters of fallen “heroes” – describing the past year as one of “pain, sorrow, faith and unity”.

“It is actually quite remarkable that they are having a parade and memorial service like this today, standing in the open in Kyiv,” General Sir Richard Barrons, a former head of Joint Forces Command, told Sky News.

“That shows how much they think they have done to repel the Russian invasion and how confident they are about how as long as the West continues to support Ukraine, Ukraine will prevail in the end.”

Ukraine war – latest: Marking a year of war in Europe

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy handovers a flag to a serviceman during a ceremony dedicated to the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 24, 2023. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION HAS BEEN PROVIDED SEPARATELY.
President Zelenskyy leads a memorial service in Kyiv
Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses soldiers at a military parade in front of St. Sophia Cathedral

Earlier, the Ukraine leader, who has remained steadfast alongside his people in the resistance against Vladimir Putin‘s invading forces, said in a video message: “We are ready for anything. We will defeat everyone.”

Sitting behind a desk and recalling how he addressed Ukrainians a year ago, he described 24 February, 2022 as “the longest day of our lives, the most difficult day in our recent history”. “We woke up early and haven’t slept since,” he said.

In a separate tweet, he wrote: “On February 24, millions of us made a choice. 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.

“We know that 2023 will be the year of our victory!”

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Zelenskyy hands out medals in Kyiv

He posted his comments alongside a video reflecting on the first 12 months of the bloody conflict which has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of civilians.

It included footage of families torn apart and in tears, and the destruction of cities, as well as remembering the war dead.

However, it also hailed the “bravery” of the Ukrainian people against the invading forces, and looked ahead to a year of “hope, endurance and invincibility”.

Despite superiority in numbers, Russian troops have been defeated a number of times since the war began, although they still control about one fifth of Ukraine.

And the war rages on, particularly in eastern Ukraine, where the battle for Bakhmut has been so fierce and intense that it has been dubbed the “meat grinder” by commanders from both sides.

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Bells ring in Kyiv on war anniversary

Key points
Rishi Sunak is to urge G7 leaders, including US President Joe Biden, to “move faster” in arming Ukraine’s troops in a virtual meeting later
• The first Leopard 2 German-made modern battle tanks have arrived in Ukraine, says Poland
• Russia may stage a false flag operation to drag Belarus into the war, claim Ukrainian military officials, after seeing unmarked Russian convoys carrying personnel dressed in uniforms resembling the Ukrainian military near the border
King Charles praises ‘truly remarkable courage’ of Ukrainian people

A map of the conflict on the one-year anniversary

‘War is not ending anytime soon’

As Kyiv and the rest of the world marked the war anniversary, Russia’s Wagner mercenary group on Friday claimed control of a Ukrainian village called Berkhiva, near Bakhmut.

Control of Bakhmut would give Russia a stepping stone to advance on two bigger cities it has long coveted in the Donetsk region: Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

“Yes, it’s one year and Ukraine has remained defiant, but in the east, the war is not ending anytime soon and Russia keeps on pouring in more troops,” said Sky News’ security and defence editor Deborah Haynes, in Kyiv.

The regional administration building that was damaged by shelling is seen on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Kherson, Ukraine
A building and bus (pictured below) in Kherson, Ukraine, are damaged by shelling on the war anniversary
A damaged bus parks next to an impact by shelling on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Kherson, Ukraine February 24, 2023. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

Ukraine’s presidential office said Russian forces targeted 18 towns and villages in the Donetsk region with air and artillery strikes during a 24-hour offensive, including the city of Kramatorsk which hosts Ukrainian military headquarters for the region.

Russia’s defence ministry said on its forces had killed up to 240 Ukrainian soldiers in the bombardment.

In its latest intelligence update, the UK Ministry of Defence said Russia’s campaign has shifted focus away from “seizing substantial new territory” to degrading Kyiv’s military.

“The Russian leadership is likely pursuing a long-term operation where they bank that Russia’s advantages in population and resources will eventually exhaust Ukraine,” it said.

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Residents worn down by war

UN calls for immediate Russian withdrawal

President Zelenskyy’s call for victory came as the general assembly of the United Nations last night voted overwhelmingly for Russia to pull out of Ukraine and for accountability for war crimes.

Just six countries – Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, Mali, Nicaragua and Syria – voted with Russia against the resolution calling for a comprehensive, lasting and just peace. China, India, Iran and South Africa were among the 32 countries who abstained.

China reiterated its calls for a political settlement to the Ukraine conflict – issuing a 12-point plan calling for a ceasefire, resumption of peace talks, and an end to unilateral sanctions.

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Landmarks light up for Ukraine

UK bans every item used by Russia in war

Despite Beijing’s demands, including for the West to stop arming Ukraine, the White House said the United States will provide Ukraine with an additional $2bn (£1.65bn) in security assistance, while the UK on Friday announced new sanctions, banning the export of every item Russia has used on the battlefield in Ukraine.

The package of internationally co-ordinated sanctions and trade measures include export bans on hundreds of goods, such as aircraft parts, radio equipment, and electronic military components.

Mr Zelenskyy has spent much of the last few weeks touring European capitals, appealing to leaders to send his country fighter jets.

However, there are fears among Western leaders that Ukraine would use the aircraft to strike targets inside Russia. Instead, many have opted to send tanks or armoured vehicles.

‘Strong message to Putin’

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the UK will not be supplying fighter jets in the “short term”, as it would mean sending “hundreds of people” to the country and “the West is not going to be putting troops into Ukraine on those scales”.

He told Sky News: “The one thing I have learnt in this conflict is you can’t rule anything in and rule anything out.”

On China’s efforts to portray itself as a neutral peace broker, Mr Wallace said: “If your big neighbour doesn’t vote actively in support of you it is sending a strong message to President Putin that this is unwise and a folly and that he should cease.”

Western leaders on Friday continued to issue messages of support to Ukraine.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak shared a video featuring Ukrainians who had found refuge in the UK, while President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would be with Ukraine “for as long as it takes”.

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Defence Sec: ‘No jets in short term’

How is Russia marking the symbolic date?

Sky News’ correspondent Diana Magnay, who is in Moscow, said the country “isn’t marking it at all”.

“I think they’re trying to let this anniversary just pass as though this special military operation, as they call it, is still business as usual,” she said.

“Vladimir Putin has obviously tried to tell people that this is going to be for the long haul. He’s reconciled himself to the fact that there are no quick wins.

“The only thing we’ve heard is some sort of stereotypically hawkish comments from Dmitry Medvedev, the former president, a liberal president. He said it’s important to push the border of threats as far as possible, even to the borders of Poland.”

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