Ukrainians have proven themselves to be “invincible”, a defiant Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said, as he attended a parade and memorial service in central Kyiv – marking a year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
On a day of commemorations, the Ukrainian president presented awards in the capital to surviving soldiers and relatives of fallen “heroes”, describing the past year as one of “pain, sorrow, faith and unity”.
General Sir Richard Barrons, a former head of Joint Forces Command, said it was “quite remarkable that they are having a parade and memorial service like this today, standing in the open in Kyiv”.
“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,” he told Sky News.
Ukraine war – latest: Marking a year of war in Europe
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.
“We have become one family,” he added in a separate televised address.
“We withstand all threats, shelling, cluster bombs, cruise missiles, kamikaze drones, blackouts and cold. We are stronger than that.
“We were not defeated. And we will do everything to gain victory this year.”
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He also tweeted 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 back on “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.
‘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.
Sky News’ security and defence editor Deborah Haynes, who is in Kyiv, said “Ukraine has remained defiant, but in the east, the war is not ending anytime soon and Russia keeps on pouring in more troops”.
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 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.
UN calls for immediate Russian withdrawal
President Zelenskyy’s call for victory came as the general assembly of the United Nations 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 that 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.
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.
Meanwhile, 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.
Talking to Sky News from the eastern Donbas region, former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said: “Fighter jets alone cannot solve the problem, but they can stop Russian dominance in the Ukrainian sky.
“We have enough weapons to withstand and stop Putin, but we do not have enough weapons to provide an effective operation and throw Putin away from the Ukrainian soil.”
‘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 led a minute’s silence from the steps of Downing Street and 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”.
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.
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“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.”