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WORLD | 23-02-2023 23:40

‘Ukraine will prevail’ – Zelenskyy marks anniversary of Ukraine war

United Nations votes to demand Russia immediately and unconditionally withdraw its troops from Ukraine, marking the one-year anniversary of the war with a call for a "just and lasting" peace.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy this week expressed confidence in his country's victory over invading Russian forces, as the United Nations marked the eve of the war's first anniversary by voting overwhelmingly to demand Moscow withdraw.

Since the war started, Western leaders have rushed to support Kyiv, and G7 ministers discussed new sanctions on Russia Thursday, while the White House said the United States would announce "sweeping" new measures soon.

Zelenskyy vowed to keep up the fight as Ukraine prepared to mark one year since the invasion on Friday.

"We have not broken down, we have overcome many ordeals and we will prevail," Zelenskyy said on social media. "We will hold to account all those who brought this evil, this war to our land."

In the Ukrainian capital, which saw Russian troops at its doorstep at the start of the invasion last February and which has suffered relentless attacks since, residents remained defiant. 

"This has been the most difficult year of my life and that of all Ukrainians," said Diana Shestakova, 23, whose boyfriend has spent the last year away in the army.

"I am sure that we will be victorious, but we don't know how long we will have to wait and how many victims there are still to come," said Shestakova, who works for a publishing house.

 

'I don't see any future'

In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin promised victory as he laid flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before meeting soldiers in Red Square under blue skies and brisk temperatures.

Russia's "unbreakable unity is the key to our victory," said Putin, who has likened his offensive to Moscow's fight against Nazi Germany in 1941-1945.

Political commentators say the 70-year-old Kremlin chief is steeling Russians for a  long conflict with the West, insisting the country's survival is at stake.

Many Russians have embraced that rhetoric. "The country is really changing for the better," Lyubov Yudina, a 48-year-old guard, told AFP. She said a lot of her friends had seen their sons drafted. "Some of them died. That's how it is."

But others say the country is heading in the wrong direction. "I don't see any future now. I do not see why I would have children, for what reason I would have children now?" said Ruslan Melnikov, a 28-year-old teacher.

 

Call for immediate withdrawal

The conflict has devastated swathes of Ukraine, turned Russia into a pariah in the West and, according to Western sources, is estimated to have caused over 150,000 casualties on either side.

The UN General Assembly voted Thursday to demand Russia immediately and unconditionally withdraw its troops from Ukraine and called for a "just and lasting" peace in the war-torn country.

While non-binding, the vote made clear the extent of support for Kyiv around the world, with 141 of the 193 UN members in support, seven opposed and 32 abstaining.

"Today, United Nations General Assembly has just spoken very clear," said European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. "This vote shows that the international community stands with Ukraine."

The vote came after two days of debate during which Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged the international community to choose "between good and evil."

He rejected the idea that Kyiv only enjoyed the support of the West -- the European Union, the United States and their key allies.

"The vote defies the argument that the Global South does not stand on Ukraine's side, because many countries representing Latin America, Africa, Asia voted in favour today," Kuleba said.

"The support is much broader, and it will only continue to be consolidated and to be solidified," he added.

 

New measures

In India, Group of Seven finance ministers met in the city of Bengaluru to discuss further sanctions and more financial help for Ukraine.

The G7 said that for 2023, based on Ukraine's needs, it had increased its commitment of budget and economic support to US$39 billion. It added that sanctions so far have "significantly undermined Russia's capacity to wage its illegal war" and that the G7 would "take further actions.”

The United States and its G7 allies plan to unveil "a big new package of sanctions" in the coming days, including measures to crack down on the evasion of existing sanctions. 

"The United States will implement sweeping sanctions against key sectors that generate revenue for Putin," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Thursday.

The latest Western leader to visit the Ukrainian capital, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, said he hoped to send up to 10 Leopard tanks to Ukraine in the coming months.  

After months of hesitation European countries agreed in January to send battle tanks to Ukraine to help repel Russian forces. 

Russia has denounced the growing arms deliveries to Ukraine, saying they only lead to escalation. 

"Today we are once again in serious danger," Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Thursday. "Using Ukraine, the collective West is seeking to dismember Russia, to deprive it of independence." 

 

– TIMES/AFP

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