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On war anniversary eve, Zelensky says Ukraine ‘will prevail’

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday 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.

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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 Washington would announce “sweeping” new measures.

Zelensky 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,” Zelensky said on social media.

“We will hold to account all those who brought this evil, this war to our land.”

In the capital Kyiv, 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’ –

Ahead of the anniversary, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov warned that Russia was planning a missile attack on Friday to mark the day.

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 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.

Yudina 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 more than 150,000 casualties on each 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.

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 economic support to $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” around the anniversary, 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 Sanchez, said he hoped to send up to 10 Leopard tanks to Ukraine in the coming months.

And on Friday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will tell G7 allies that they must increase aid to Kyiv faster to give Ukraine a “decisive” battlefield advantage, according to a statement issued by his office.

“Instead of an incremental approach, we need to move faster on artillery, armour, and air defence,” Sunak is expected to say in a virtual meeting on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

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

Moscow 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 Thursday.

“Using Ukraine, the collective West is seeking to dismember Russia, to deprive it of independence.”



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