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A year after the Russian invasion, the Ukrainians vowed to fight back

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With no end in sight to the war, Ukrainians paid tribute to their fallen loved ones on Friday and vowed to fight for victory, while Russia said its forces were gaining ground in the battle in the east as it entered its second general invasion.

At a ceremony in Kiev’s Saint Sophia Square, President Volodymyr Zelensky awarded medals to a soldier on crutches and a mother of a slain victim who held back tears as the national anthem was played.

“We have become one family. There are no longer strangers among us. All Ukrainians are comrades today. Ukrainians have sheltered Ukrainians, opening their homes and hearts to those forced to flee the war,” Zelensky said in a televised address.

“We are resisting all threats, bombing, cluster bombs, cruise missiles, kamikaze planes, blackouts and cold. We are stronger than that,” he said. “We are not defeated. We will do everything to achieve victory this year!”

Zelensky is later due to attend an online summit with US President Joe Biden and other leaders from the Group of Seven wealthy democracies, who are expected to condemn the war, pledge more support for Ukraine and tougher financial sanctions against Russia.

For ordinary Ukrainians who spent most of the year holed up in bunkers and supported the war effort in any way they could, memory meant reflection.

said Valentina Krisan, 75, an employee of the Kiev store. “I wish you a happy and peaceful day, and that such a thing will never happen again in your life.”

Blue and yellow flags

Allies around the world showed their support. Paris lit up the Eiffel Tower in the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag. In London, as the street outside the Russian Embassy was painted blue and yellow, people wearing Ukrainian flags with their hands over their hearts gathered in a vigil with a sign that read: “If you stand for freedom, stand with Ukraine”.

“There will be life after this war, because Ukraine will win,” said Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, in a speech.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, in a video message, praised “the determination and courage of Ukrainians, how they stand up for their freedom. Germany supports them in this – strongly and for as long as necessary.”

There were no major public events to mark the anniversary on Friday in Russia, which on Thursday set off fireworks for the annual “Defenders of the Fatherland” holiday and held a pop concert on Wednesday attended by President Vladimir Putin.

He fears tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed along with more soldiers on both sides since Putin ordered the invasion a year ago, saying it was necessary to protect Russia’s security.

Ukraine sees it as a brazen attempt to subjugate an independent country. Its outnumbered and outnumbered forces repulsed Russia’s attempt to capture the capital Kiev early in the war and later recaptured swathes of conquered territory. But Moscow still occupies roughly a fifth of the area of ​​Ukraine it claims to have annexed.

Russian forces ravaged Ukrainian towns and cities, sending a third of the population fleeing and leaving streets strewn with corpses in the towns they occupied and lost. Moscow denies committing war crimes.

In recent weeks, Russian forces, bolstered by hundreds of thousands of conscripts in their first mobilization since World War Two, have launched a winter offensive of intense trench warfare, making only small gains despite fighting that both sides say is the bloodiest of the war. .

There is no peace

There is no indication of any peace process. Putin says he is fighting the combined might of the West in what he now portrays as a fight for Russia’s survival. Kiev says there can be no peace until Russia withdraws.

In the latest reports from the battlefield, Russia’s Wagner Private Army, run by an ally of Putin who has squabbled with regular military officers, claimed on Friday to have captured another village on the outskirts of Bakhmut, the small mining town in the east that once stood in the middle of nowhere. Moscow offensive focus.

Russia made slow progress in trying to encircle Bakhmut, but failed to capture it in time for a victory for Putin to announce on his anniversary.

The costly Russian offensives achieved little or no progress elsewhere on the front. Ukraine, for its part, is focusing on defense for now, waiting for supplies of new weapons for a counterattack.

Britain announced new sanctions on Russia on Friday, and other Western powers are also expected to do so during a meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) nations, led by Biden, who traveled to Kiev and delivered a historic speech in Warsaw this week to celebrate. annual.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the United States would provide an additional $2 billion in aid, and the new G7 sanctions would target countries seeking to repackage products that Russia has refused because of the sanctions.

China, which signed a “borderless” partnership with Russia on the eve of the war and signaled support by sending its top diplomat to Moscow this week, released a peace plan on Friday, sticking to the principle of public neutrality. Washington has said in recent days that it believes China may supply weapons to Russia. Beijing denies this.

The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution on Thursday calling for Russia to withdraw.

There were 141 votes in favor and 32 abstentions, including China. Six countries joined Russia in voting “no” – Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, Mali, Nicaragua and Syria. Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyansky, dismissed the vote as “unhelpful”.

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