Ukraine war: Zelensky insists country will win on second anniversary

A woman cries during a march in support of Ukraine
Image caption,Marches were held across Europe in solidarity with Ukraine

By Kathryn Armstrong

BBC News

Ukraine’s president has issued a rallying cry, vowing that his country will prevail, as it marks two years since Russia’s full-scale invasion.

“None of us will allow our Ukraine to end,” Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address in the capital Kyiv.

He was joined by Western leaders in a show of solidarity.

The anniversary comes as Ukraine experiences a range of setbacks in its efforts to expel Russia from its territory.

Mr Zelensky said in his speech on Saturday that while any normal person would want the war to end, it could only be on Ukraine’s terms.

“That’s why, to the words ‘end of the war’, we always add ‘on our terms’. That’s why the word ‘peace’ always goes with ‘fair’.

“We are fighting for it. For 730 days of our lives already. And we will win on the best day of our life.”

Joining him in Kyiv were the leaders of Italy, Belgium and Canada – as well as the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

They laid wreaths at a wall commemorating those who have lost their lives in the war.

However, there were some glaring omissions among the visitors. No senior US representatives were present, whereas last year President Joe Biden attended the anniversary.

Mr Zelensky did meet a group of Democratic senators led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Friday, though, which he said was a sign Washington backed Ukraine.

Ms von der Leyen praised the Ukrainian troops who defended the country in the early days of the invasion and confounded expectations about their ability to withhold Russia’s invasion force.

“You managed to stop Russia’s attack to the heart of Ukraine. You saved your country, you saved all of Europe,” she said.

Italy and Canada used the anniversary visit to announce that they had signed bilateral security pacts with Kyiv – meant to boost Ukraine’s hopes of becoming a member of the Nato military alliance.

Later, members of the G7 – including Canada, Italy, the UK and US – pledged support for Ukraine and new sanctions on Russia during a virtual meeting.

Justin Trudeau, Giorgia Meloni, Volodymyr Zelensky, Ursula von der Leyen, Alexander De Croo,
Image caption,Western leaders joined the Ukrainian President in Kyiv to mark the anniversary

Marches have also been held across Europe in solidarity with Ukraine. Participants demanded that Russian President Vladimir Putin end the war.

At least four people were reportedly detained in Moscow on Saturday at a protest against the war, organised by wives of mobilised soldiers.

Such demonstrations are rare as there are several laws in place now in Russia that punish dissent.

The anniversary of Russia’s invasion comes at a difficult time for Ukraine. Only a week ago, it announced that troops had withdrawn from the embattled town of Avdiivka – one of Russia’s biggest wins for months.

The failure of Ukraine’s counter-offensive and issues over securing further aid from the US have also been big setbacks.

Meanwhile, the fighting continues. At least four people were killed during the latest Russian strikes on Ukrainian cities.

Kyiv said it had hit one of Russia’s largest steel plants in a drone attack early on Saturday.

Ukraine has made some gains in the war – sinking Russian warships and reportedly downing spy planes – but the victory President Zelensky has promised still seems far away.

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