March 5. 2024. 2:15

The Daily

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‘We were not afraid, we did not collapse, we did not surrender’: Ukraine marks one year of war

Ukraine honoured its soldiers on the first anniversary of Russia’s full invasion of the country and received its first Western-made tanks from Poland, as allies vowed to maintain support for Kyiv and continue to pressure Moscow until the Kremlin ends its war of aggression.

“To everyone who fights for Ukraine and lives for Ukraine I want to say: I am proud of you. We are all proud of you. And let this pride go through the streets and trenches. Let this pride go through the squares and cities... Let this pride say everywhere that Ukraine is alive,” the nation’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy told ranks of troops in central Kyiv.

Much of Ukraine was expected to fall within days or weeks when Russia launched its all-out attack a year ago, but Moscow’s forces now occupy only about a fifth of the country amid fighting that is estimated to have killed and wounded more than 100,000 soldiers on each side and which has displaced millions of civilians.

Mr Zelenskiy described February 24th last year as “the longest day of our lives, the hardest day of our modern history” when Ukraine “did not raise the white flag but began to defend the blue and yellow”.

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“We were not afraid, we did not collapse, we did not surrender,” Mr Zelenskiy said.

In another message to mark the anniversary, he said: “It was a year of pain, sorrow, faith and unity... We know that 2023 will be the year of our victory.”

Ukraine says it can expel Russia’s invasion force if Western allies supply enough modern battle tanks, drop their objections to sending longer-range missiles to Kyiv’s forces and provide modern warplanes such as the F-16.

Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced in Kyiv that his country had become the first to deliver German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

He said four of 14 Leopards that Warsaw promised to Ukraine were now in the country, as Ukrainian tank crews train on the vehicles in Poland and Germany. Kyiv has said it expects to receive more than 100 Leopards from several states in a “first wave” of such supplies.

As Kyiv continues to push for Western fighter jets, Mr Morawiecki said: “Yes, we are ready to conduct training on F-16 fighters in Poland. I underline that this should always be agreed within the broader coalition [of Nato allies].”

Mr Zelenskiy said he thought three other unnamed European states might also offer similar training and aircraft.

A host of Western leaders hailed Ukraine’s resistance and pledged to keep providing it with military, political, humanitarian and financial support for as long as necessary.

“I’ll repeat today what I said one year ago as Russia invaded Ukraine. A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never erase the people’s love of liberty. Brutality will never grind down the will of the free. And Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia. Never,” US president Joe Biden said four days after paying a surprise visit to Kyiv.

Russian president Vladimir Putin says no amount of Western support for Kyiv will stop Moscow defeating what he describes as a “neo-Nazi” Ukraine that poses a threat to his country.

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, who is now deputy chairman of his country’s security council, said Moscow’s forces must “push the borders of threats to our country as far away as possible, even if that will be the borders of Poland”.

The US and Britain announced more sanctions on Russia, and the G7 group of wealthy states and the European Union were discussing their own new financial measures against Moscow.

The EU and Nato said China’s deepening relations with Russia and refusal to condemn the invasion of Ukraine undermined the credibility of ceasefire proposals that Beijing unveiled on Friday.

“We will look at the principles, of course,” said European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, “but we will look at them against the backdrop that China has taken sides.”