June 16. 2024. 8:43

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Zelenskiy says Ukraine ‘will prevail’ against Russia ahead of possible anniversary attacks

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy vowed that Ukraine would win its war with Russia and hold the Kremlin to account for crimes committed during the conflict, as his country braced for a possible missile attack by Moscow’s forces a year after they launched their all-out invasion.

As Moscow and Beijing warned that the war could spiral into a wider international conflict, Russian president Vladimir Putin pledged to strengthen his nuclear arsenal and Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg noted “signs” that China might supply weapons to Russia and said it “should not be part of that”.

Commenting on photographs from 12 months of fighting that have killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions, Mr Zelenskiy said they “leave deep scars in your heart and soul. They remind us of the path we have gone from February to February. It must be in our DNA.”

[ Ukraine War: Where the conflict stands and what the future might hold ]

“We have not broken down, we have overcome many ordeals and we will prevail. 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,” he added.

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“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.”

Ukraine expects Moscow to launch a significant missile attack on or around Friday, which marks one year of what the Kremlin characterises as a “special military operation” to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine and remove what it calls Kyiv’s “neo-Nazi” regime.

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However, Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukrainian military intelligence, played down the threat: “Let’s put it like this – there will be nothing extraordinary. Their usual efforts ... They are planning a small missile strike,” he told local media. “Believe me, we have already survived this more than 20 times.”

Ukrainian officials have urged schools to teach remotely at the end of this week, and Ihor Terekhov, mayor of the city of Kharkiv just 30km from the Russian border, said council staff would work as normal but people who had security fears should stay at home.

Days after announcing that Moscow was halting participation in its last nuclear arms control pact with Washington, Mr Putin said his country would “pay increased attention to strengthening the nuclear triad”, referring to nuclear missiles launched from land, sea and air.

[ Germany shakes off historic demons to back Ukraine against Russia ]

Mr Putin met China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, on Wednesday, amid western concern about strengthening ties between their countries and potential arms supplies from Beijing to Moscow.

“We haven’t seen any supplies of lethal aid from China to Russia, but we have seen signs that they are considering and may be planning for that,” Mr Stoltenberg said.

“That’s the reason why the United States and other allies have been very clear, warning against that. And China should of course not support Russia’s illegal war [in Ukraine],” he told Reuters. “Of course, China should not be part of that.”