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February 24, 2023

1 year into invasion, Ukraine mourns dead, vows victory

1 year into invasion, Ukraine mourns dead, vows victory

 Ukraine honored its dead and vowed to keep fighting on Friday while Russia told the world to accept “the realities” of its war but faced new Western sanctions on the invasion’s anniversary.

At a ceremony in Kyiv’s St Sophia Square, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy bestowed medals on soldiers and the mother of one killed, fighting back tears during the national anthem.

“We have become one family … Ukrainians have sheltered Ukrainians, opened their homes and hearts to those who were forced to flee the war,” he said in a televised address.

“We withstand all threats, shelling, cluster bombs, cruise missiles, kamikaze drones, blackouts and cold … And we will do everything to gain victory this year.”

Zelenskiy reiterated calls for more Western weaponry and attended an online summit with United States President Joe Biden and other leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy democracies who pledged to intensify their support.

“A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never erase the people’s love of liberty,” Biden said on Twitter.

“Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia. Never.”

Washington announced a new $U.S. 2 billion ($A3 billion) package of military aid for Ukraine and a raft of additional sanctions and tariffs hitting Russia’s mining and metals industries, as well as companies from third countries accused of supplying Moscow with restricted goods.

However, Biden reiterated in an interview with ABC News that he had no plans to send Ukraine the F-16 fighter jets Zelenskiy has been seeking for months, saying the US does not currently see a rationale for sending the advanced aircraft.

“I am ruling it out for now,” Biden said.

G7 members Canada and Britain unveiled similar measures, as did the 27-nation European Union, after some hectic last-minute negotiations.

At the same time, Ukraine’s military said Russia had doubled the number of ships on active duty in the Black Sea on Friday and predicted it could be preparing for more missile strikes.

In Russia, where publicly criticising the war is punishable by long prison terms, a human rights group said dozens of people were detained by police for actions to commemorate victims of the invasion, in some cases just for placing flowers.

Ukraine’s blue and yellow colours lit up the Eiffel Tower, Brandenburg Gate, Empire State Building, and Sydney Opera House in a wave of international solidarity.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers on both sides are believed to have died since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion, saying it was necessary to protect Russia’s security.

Ukraine sees it as a bid to subjugate an independent state.

Its outnumbered and outgunned forces repelled Russia’s attempt to seize Kyiv early in the war and later recaptured swathes of occupied territory.

But Moscow still occupies almost one-fifth of Ukraine, which it claims to have annexed.

Russia’s foreign ministry said the world should recognise “new territorial realities” in Ukraine to achieve peace.

Russian troops have destroyed Ukrainian cities, set a third of the population to flight, and left behind streets littered with corpses in towns they occupied and lost.

Moscow denies war crimes.

In recent weeks, Russian forces, replenished with hundreds of thousands of conscripts, have waged intense trench warfare, making only small gains despite fighting both sides call the bloodiest so far.

In the latest reports from the battlefield, Russia’s Wagner private army, run by a Putin ally, claimed to have captured another village on the outskirts of Bakhmut, a small eastern mining city that is the focus of Moscow’s offensive.

Costly Russian assaults have yielded little in the way of advances elsewhere.

Ukraine, for its part, is awaiting new Western weapons before starting a counter-attack.

Despite strong support for Ukraine in the West, big developing nations, above all China and India, have kept clear of imposing sanctions on Moscow.

At a meeting of finance ministers of the G20 group, which includes Russia, host India made no mention of the conflict.

China, which signed a “no limits” partnership with Russia just before the war and sent its top diplomat to Moscow this week, called for a ceasefire, sticking to its principle of public neutrality. (Reuters/NAN)