Ukraine’s leader has vowed to press for victory in 2023 as Ukrainians mark the grim anniversary of the Russian invasion and Moscow demands the world accept the “realities” of its war.
At a ceremony in Kiev’s Hagia Sophia Square, President Volodymyr Zelensky awarded medals to soldiers and the mother of a dead man. Fight the tears of the national anthem.
In a televised address, he said: “We have become one family… Ukrainians have taken Ukrainians in, opening their homes and hearts to those forced to flee the war.”
We suffer all threats, bombings, cluster bombs, cruise missiles, suicide drones, power outages, hail…and we will do everything to achieve victory this year. »
Zelensky, who himself has become a symbol of Ukraine’s refusal to bow to Moscow, said Ukrainians had shown their invincibility during “a year of pain and grief, faith and unity”.
“We resisted for exactly one year,” Zelensky said. He said February 24, 2022 was “the longest day of our lives. The hardest day in our recent history. We got up early and haven’t slept since.”
Across the country, Ukrainians are looking forward to a life-changing year and a cloudy future. They wept at memorials for the tens of thousands of dead — a number that is rising inexorably as fighting rages in eastern Ukraine in particular.
“I can sum up the past year in three words: fear, love, hope,” said Oleksandr Hranik, a school principal in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.
She queued in the capital Kiev to buy souvenir postage stamps, and Tetyana Klimkova described her heart as “falling and aching”.
“However, for me this day has become a symbol that we have survived for a whole year and that we will continue to live,” she said. “On this day, our children and grandchildren will remember how strong Ukrainians are mentally, physically and spiritually.”
Speaking from Kiev, member of the Verkhovna Rada Svyatoslav Yurash said his compatriots felt as challenged as they did a year ago.
We want an independent and democratic Ukraine, and we will definitely achieve it. We got stronger all year long. »
Tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers on both sides are believed to have died since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion, saying it was necessary to protect Russia’s security.
Ukraine sees this as an attempt to subjugate an independent state. His outnumbered and outnumbered forces repulsed Russia’s attempt to capture the capital, Kiev, early in the war and later reconquered large swaths of conquered territory. But Moscow still occupies about a fifth of the area of Ukraine that it claims to annex.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the world must realize the “new regional realities” in Ukraine to achieve peace.
Calls for a cease-fire
Although China called for a cease-fire on Friday, peace was nowhere in sight. Ukraine had previously refused to stop the fighting, fearing to allow Russia to regroup militarily after crushing setbacks on the battlefield.
Zelensky offered qualified support for China’s apparent newfound interest in playing a diplomatic role, saying, “The fact that China is starting to talk about Ukraine isn’t bad.”
“But the question is what follows the words,” he said in a wide-ranging news conference. The question is what steps and where they will lead. »
A 12-point document released by China’s foreign ministry also called for an end to sanctions aimed at squeezing the Russian economy.
As a cease-fire seemed unlikely, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said that Ukraine was “entering a new phase, with a new task – to win”.
It won’t be easy. But we will succeed. There is anger and a desire to avenge the fallen. »
The air raid warnings did not come in overnight in Kiev, allaying fears that Russia might unleash another barrage of missiles to heap more misery on Ukraine on the anniversary.
More penalties and tanks
Meanwhile, Western countries are trying to tighten sanctions even further. On Friday, Washington announced a new $2 billion package of military aid to Ukraine, along with a series of sanctions and additional tariffs that have hurt Russia’s mining and mining industries, as well as companies from third countries accused of supplying embargoed goods to Moscow. Other G7 countries have unveiled similar measures.
“A year later, American involvement has deepened, mobilizing nearly 50 countries to accelerate emergency assistance to Ukraine,” the Pentagon said.
In a press release, the White House said the new measures were intended to prevent Russian financial institutions, officials and authorities from “operating illegally in Ukraine.”
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a televised speech that the main purpose of the sanctions “is to weaken Russia’s ability to wage war, and to deprive it of the goods it needs to supply it with weapons through sanctions and export controls. We succeeded in doing that.”
She added, “More than 9,000 Russian tanks were destroyed in the last year and the largest tank factories are closed because they cannot access the inputs they need to repair or rebuild . tanks.”
Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett reported in Washington, D.C., that US President Joe Biden and the G-7 have agreed to further isolate Russia over the means of financing its war machine.
“What Russia has been able to do so far is find partnerships with North Korea and Iran to keep the war machine going,” Halkett said. This latest round of sanctions aims to prevent such partnerships and isolate Russia from the global financial system. »
She explained that the recent sanctions target 200 Russian entities and persons and are linked to specific sectors of the Russian economy, namely defense and the technological industry.
In addition to the sanctions, NATO member Poland said it had delivered four advanced Leopard 2A4 tanks, making it the first country to deliver German-made armor to Ukraine.
More leopards are coming, the Polish prime minister said during a visit to Kiev. The Polish Minister of Defense said that contributions from other countries will help form Ukraine’s first battalion of 31 Leopard tanks.