A year after the invasion, Ukraine mourns its dead and vows victory
By Olena Harmash and Max Hunder
KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainians honored fallen loved ones and vowed to keep fighting for victory on Friday as their western allies tightened sanctions on Russia on the anniversary of its invasion.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy presented medals to soldiers and the mother of one of the dead at a ceremony on Sophienplatz in Kiev. He fought back tears during the national anthem.
“We have become a family…Ukrainians have protected Ukrainians, opening their homes and hearts to those fleeing the war,” he said in a televised address.
“We defy all threats, shelling, cluster bombs, cruise missiles, kamikaze drones, power outages and cold… And we will do whatever it takes to achieve victory this year.”
Zelenskyy reiterated his call for more Western guns and attended an online summit with US President Joe Biden and other leaders of the Group of Seven Prosperous Democracies, who pledged to step up their support.
The G7 also said they would never recognize Russia’s illegal annexation of eastern Ukraine and the Crimean regions.
“A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never erase people’s love of freedom,” Biden tweeted.
“Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia. Never.”
Washington announced a new $2 billion military aid package to Ukraine and a raft of additional sanctions and tariffs hitting Russia’s mining and metals industries, as well as third-country companies accused of supplying Moscow with restricted goods. Other G7 countries presented similar measures.
The anniversary was food for thought for Ukrainians, who spent much of the year in bomb shelters and supported the war effort in any way they could.
“I buried my son who died in military service. I also buried my husband. I think it’s very clear to you, I’m on my own now and it’s very, very difficult,” said Valentyna Krysan, 75, a store worker in Kiev. “I wish you a nice, peaceful day and that something like this will never happen again in your life.”
In Russia, where public criticism of the war carries long jail terms, a human rights group said dozens of people were arrested by police for actions to commemorate victims of the invasion, in some cases simply for laying flowers.
There were no official public events and the atmosphere was subdued.
“I really want peace, I really want everything to end as soon as possible,” said Vera, a pensioner.
Passing through Moscow, Igor said Russia must win: “We look forward to it ending successfully. That’s all we can expect. We have no other options.”
BLUE AND YELLOW
In solidarity with allies around the world, Ukraine’s blue and yellow colors lit up the Eiffel Tower, Brandenburg Gate, Empire State Building and Sydney Opera House.
Tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers are believed to have died on both sides since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion and said it was necessary to protect Russia’s security.
Ukraine sees this as an attempt to subjugate an independent state. Its outnumbered and outgunned forces repelled Russia’s attempt to capture the capital, Kiev, earlier in the war and later recaptured parts of the occupied territory. But Moscow still occupies almost a fifth of Ukraine, which it allegedly annexed.
Russia’s foreign ministry said the world should recognize “new territorial realities” in Ukraine in order to achieve peace.
Russian troops have destroyed Ukrainian cities, driving a third of the population to flee and leaving streets strewn with corpses in cities they have occupied and lost.
Moscow denies war crimes.
In recent weeks, Russian forces, replenished with hundreds of thousands of conscripts, have launched a winter offensive of intense trench warfare and have made little gains despite what both sides describe as the bloodiest battles yet.
Putin says he is fighting the combined might of the West in the fight for Russia’s survival. Kiev says there can be no peace until Russia withdraws.
In the latest reports from the battlefield, Russia’s private army Wagner, led by a Putin ally who has been at odds with the regular military, claimed captured another village on the outskirts of Bakhmut, the small mining town to the east that is the focus to have the Moscow offensive.
Russia has made significant, if slow, progress in encircling Bakhmut, but failed to capture it in time to deliver a victory for Putin to announce on the anniversary.
“We are not giving up, we will be here as long as necessary and as long as possible,” said Ivan, a 31-year-old Ukrainian radio operator at the front near Bakhmut.
Costly Russian attacks have made little headway elsewhere on the front lines. For its part, Ukraine is waiting for new Western weapons before launching a counterattack.
Some Leopard tanks have arrived.
Despite strong support for Ukraine in the West, major developing countries, most notably China and India, have stayed away from sanctions against Moscow. At a meeting of finance ministers of the G20 group, which includes Russia, host India made no mention of the conflict.
China, which signed a “no limits” partnership with Russia just before the war and sent its top diplomat to Moscow this week, called for a ceasefire and abided by its principle of public neutrality.
Earn more on the Ukraine War. Listen to a special episode of the Reuters World News Podcast.
(Additional reporting by Dan Peleschuk and Mike Collett-White in Kiev and Yiming Woo near Bakhmut; writing by Peter Graff and Philippa Fletcher; editing by Kevin Liffey and Andrew Cawthorne)