Zelensky marks one year since Russia invaded Ukraine
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Volodymyr Zelensky paid a glowing tribute to his nation’s war dead on Friday after a year of “pain, sorrow, faith and unity”. Ukraine’s president said his country had neither broken down nor surrendered in the face of Russian aggression. He vowed: “Every tomorrow is worth fighting for.” In a series of emotional addresses, he pledged: “We will do everything to gain victory this year.”
Mr Zelensky thanked the military, medics, volunteers and Ukraine’s allies for joining efforts in putting up resistance to Russian aggression.
He said: “We withstand all threats, shelling, cluster bombs, cruise missiles, kamikaze drones, blackouts and cold. We are stronger than that.”
But he also took time to reflect on the 12 months since Russia invaded its neighbour, with the loss of tens of thousands of Ukrainian lives.
Taking to Telegram, and accompanied by various images showing the impact of the war, the president said memories like these “leave deep scars in your heart and soul”.
He added: “They remind us of the path we have gone [on] from February to February.
“We have overcome many ordeals and we will prevail,” he vowed.
“We will hold to account all those who brought this evil, this war to our land. All the terror, all the killings, all the torture, all the looting.
“Russia has chosen the path of the murderer. The path of the terrorist. The path of the torturer. The path of the looter. This is the state choice of Russia and there will be state responsibility for the terror committed.”
In another Telegram post, he said: “On February 24, millions of us made a choice. Not a white flag but a blue and yellow flag. Not fleeing, but facing. Facing the enemy. Resistance and struggle.
“It was a year of pain, sorrow, faith and unity. And this is a year of our invincibility. We know that this will be the year of our victory!”
Mr Zelensky later attended an open air memorial service in Kyiv during which he presented honours to members of the Ukrainian army.
He also visited the wounded in hospital and hand out medals. Those killed were also honoured as relatives were handed The Order of the Golden Star.
Giving out the awards, the president described the fallen as the “true heroes of Ukraine”. The photos of many were placed on a wall in Kyiv’s St Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery.
There had been warnings that Russia might be planning an attack to coincide with the anniversary. During the night, there were strikes reported in Kramatorsk and Kherson, where authorities said the city’s main gas pipeline was damaged.
In its latest intelligence briefing, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said Russia was trying to “exhaust” Ukraine.
“Its campaign now likely primarily seeks to degrade the Ukrainian military, rather than being focused on seizing substantial new territory,” the ministry said.
“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.”
Elsewhere, the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to approve a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It called for the withdrawal of troops from Ukraine and a halt to fighting.
A minute’s silence was held by the UN security council on Friday after Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Russia of genocide against his nation. But Russia’s UN envoy Vasily Nebenzya interrupted the silence.
The Russian ambassador tapped his microphone as members of the assembly stood up. Other envoys were unhappy by his intervention but he said: “We are getting up on our feet to honour the memory of all victims of what has happened in Ukraine, starting in 2014.”
When Vladimir Putin’s forces crossed the Ukrainian border a year ago, the Russian president believed the entire country could be conquered in just a few days.
But he had not anticipated the resolve of the Ukrainian resistance, nor the unity of the West in their determination that Putin be defeated.
A year of ferocious fighting ensued, with more than 100,000 military casualties on both sides, in addition to tens of thousands injured. Thousands of civilians have also been killed, including nearly 500 children, while 10 million people have been displaced by the war.
Russian forces are also subject to numerous investigations over alleged war crimes.
Putin’s army, along with his mercenary Wagner Group, have been accused of tens of thousands of atrocities that are now being probed by both Ukrainian authorities and the United Nations.
The chief prosecutor’s office in Kyiv recently announced that it was looking at an ever-growing list of alleged war crimes by Russian troops. It said that it was receiving reports of between 200 to 300 war crimes by Moscow’s forces every single day.
The Kremlin has denied any wrongdoing by its military.
But with the discovery of mass graves, repeated shelling of civilian targets – including schools and hospitals – the evidence of atrocities is mounting.
In particular, Ukraine says it has uncovered multiple mass graves in Bucha and other towns near Kyiv that were briefly seized by Russian troops.
Ukrainian authorities have warned though that for now many trials will have to be held “in absentia”, though it was “a question of justice” to continue with the prosecutions.
And the prosecutor’s office warned that Russian soldiers who killed, tortured or raped civilians “should understand that it’s only a question of time when they all will be in court”.
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