Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky today marked the anniversary of Russia’s barbaric invasion with a sombre message of defiance to his people as he vowed to bring Russian ‘murderers’ to justice.
As dawn broke on a day of commemorations and continued resilience, Zelensky hailed his nation and its people for fighting back against Vladimir Putin’s men during what he called ‘a year of pain, sorrow, faith and unity’.
‘We have endured. We were not defeated. And we will do everything to gain victory this year,’ Zelensky said.
But there is no end in sight after a year of intense fighting – and former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev today vowed Russia would win the war and was ready to fight up to Poland’s borders if needed to counter ‘threats’.
In a defiant video address, Zelensky recalled the terror unleashed a year ago by the Russian assault, triggering Europe’s biggest and deadliest war since the Second World War.
‘Ukraine has inspired the world. Ukraine has united the world,’ Zelensky said, hailing cities that have become bywords for Russian war crimes like Bucha, Irpin and Mariupol as ‘capitals of invincibility.’ ‘We will never rest until the Russian murderers face deserved punishment,’ he vowed.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, holds the flag of a military unit as an officer kisses it, during commemorative event on the occasion of the Russia Ukraine war one year anniversary in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky today marked the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion with a sombre message of defiance to his people, saying ‘we will defeat everyone’. Pictured: A father holds his daughter in Ukraine in the video shared by Zelensky
In a video released to the media and titled ‘the year of invincibility’, the 45-year-old recalled how he addressed Ukrainians a year ago in a hurried statement, as Kyiv and the world reeled from Russia’s act of war
In a defiant video address, Zelensky recalled the terror unleashed a year ago by the Russian assault, triggering Europe’s biggest and deadliest war since the Second World War
He said February 24, 2022, the date of the Russian invasion, was ‘the longest day of our lives’.
‘We survived the first day of the full-scale war. We didn’t know what tomorrow would bring, but we clearly understood that for each tomorrow, you need to fight. And we fought,’ he said.
Ukrainians planned memorials, candle vigils and other remembrances for their tens of thousands of dead – a toll growing all the time as fighting rages in eastern Ukraine in particular.
There were concerns that Russia might unleash another barrage of missiles against Ukraine to pile yet more sadness on the day.
Mercifully, air raid alarms did not sound overnight in the capital, Kyiv, and dawn broke quietly.
Still, the government recommended that schools move classes online and office employees were asked to work from home.
Tributes to Ukraine’s resilience flowed from overseas. The Eiffel Tower in Paris was among monuments illuminated in Ukraine’s colours – yellow and blue.
NATO said it was ‘resolute’ in supporting Ukraine while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said today that Putin will not reach his aims in Ukraine, a year after Moscow’s troops invaded the country.
‘The earlier the Russian president realises that he will not reach his imperialistic goal, the bigger the chance that the war will end soon. Putin has it in his hands. He can end this war,’ said Scholz.
EU President Ursula von der Leyen hailed the ‘heroic’ fighting spirit of Ukrainians.
She said: ‘One year of brutal Russian aggression. One year of heroic Ukrainian resistance. One year of European solidarity. Ahead of us is a future of unity.
‘You are fighting for freedom, for democracy, and for your place in the European Union. We are with you, for as long as it takes.’
But former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev today vowed Russia would be victorious in the war and was ready to fight until the Polish border to counter ‘threats’.
‘Victory will be achieved,’ Medvedev said on Telegram, ‘This is why it is so important to reach all the goals of the special military operation. To push back the borders of the threats against our country as far as possible, even if this is to the borders of Poland’.
Zelensky said the February 24, 2022, Russian assault had been a moment when ‘millions of us made a choice’.
Ukrainians chose not the white flag of surrender ‘but the blue and yellow one. Not fleeing, but facing. Resisting and fighting,’ his tweet said.
In the year since, the world has watched in horror as Putin’s soldiers have dropped missiles on apartment buildings, tortured civilians before shooting them dead, and systematically raped women and girls.
Men, women and children – the youngest known victim being a 14-year-old boy – have been executed by Russian soldiers, their bodies thrown into deep troughs dug into the ground.
The scale of the suffering and the indiscriminate targeting of men, women and children has seen at least 7,000 civilians killed and nearly eight million Ukrainians flee to countries across Europe.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a commemorative event on the occasion of the Russia Ukraine war one year anniversary, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday
Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces Valeriy Zaluzhny, right, talks to an officer during a commemorative event on the occasion of the Russia Ukraine war one year anniversary, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday
Ukrainian troops and their UK military instructors, commemorate lives lost in the Russian invasion of Ukraine during a sunrise commemorative service, at Lydd army camp in Kent, to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of the conflict
Ukrainian military recruits take part in prayers, blessings and a one minute silence alongside British and Canadian troops, to mark the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at a military base in the south east of Britain on Friday
A Ukrainian national flag flies atop the Reichstag building, the seat of Germany’s lower house of parliament Bundestag on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Berlin, Germany, on Friday
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen attends wreath-laying ceremony at the War of Independence Victory Column on Friday
When the first air strikes struck Ukrainian cities a year ago today, hundreds of thousands fled across the border to neighbouring countries. Thousands more had fled in the days leading up to the invasion, fearing the worst.
Emotional scenes at train stations showed fathers waving tearful goodbyes to their wives and children before returning to fight for Ukraine. Some families have been torn apart forever, with tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers killed so far.
For those Ukrainians who have stayed in Ukraine, they have seen their homes and towns levelled to the ground and their loved ones killed or wounded by Russian missiles.
In March last year, a month into the war, Russian soldiers unleashed a series of indiscriminate bombs on civilian areas, leaving death and destruction in their wake.
During a three-month siege in the southern city of Mariupol, Russian forces levelled the city and killed hundreds of civilians in missile attacks. The world watched in horror as Russian forces bombed a maternity hospital on March 9, killing a pregnant woman and her baby, and wounding at least 17 people.
A week later, Russian aircraft again dropped missiles on civilian areas – this time on the Donetsk Regional Theatre in Mariupol, which was housing hundreds of civilians and had ‘children’ written in large white letters outside. At least a dozen people were killed and scores more were injured in the attack.
The attacks on civilians continue. Last month, on 14 January 2023, a Russian missile strike on an apartment building in the city of Dnipro killed at least 44 people, including five children, and injured 79 people.
Zelensky was visibly emotional and stood motionless as he surveyed the scene of utter devastation he encountered when he visited Bucha in April last year, with dozens of bodies shot at close range lying on the empty streets
Emotional scenes at train stations showed fathers waving tearful goodbyes to their wives and children before returning to fight for Ukraine. Pictured: A couple say goodbye on a platform at Kyiv central train station as an evacuation train leaves the capital on February 28, 2022
And since October, Russian forces have also repeatedly targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, plunging Ukrainian cities into darkness and leaving millions without heat during the bitterly cold winter months.
In the early months of the war, Russian forces were forced to retreat from towns and cities across Ukraine – but as they retreated, the war crimes they have committed against civilians has become clear.
Since March, mass graves have been filled with the bodies of thousands of civilians, many with their hands tied behind their backs, along with torture chambers discovered in liberated areas of Ukraine in areas across the Kyiv and Kharkiv regions of Ukraine – including the cities of Bucha, Irpin and Izyum.
Zelensky was visibly emotional and stood motionless as he surveyed the scene of utter devastation he encountered when he visited Bucha in April last year, with dozens of bodies shot at close range lying on the empty streets.
The civilians who survived have detailed how Russian soldiers detained them for months and subjected them to electric shocks, waterboarding and beatings.
Horrific testimonies – including how Russian soldiers gang-raped a 22-year-old Ukrainian mother, sexually abused her husband and made the couple have sex in front of them before raping their four-year-old daughter – have also shown how Putin’s men have used rape as a weapon of war.
In many cases, the Russian soldiers would shoot dead the women’s husbands – or threaten to do so – as soon as they tried to defend their wives and stop them from being raped.
Russian soldiers have also detained more than 20,000 Ukrainian ‘hostages’ and sent them to Russia, Dmytro Lubinets, Ukraine’s human rights envoy, said last month.
Emergency workers clear the rubble after a Russian rocket hit a multistory building leaving many people under debris in the southeastern city of Dnipro, Ukraine, on January 14
The bodies of civilians lie on Yablunska street in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, after the Russian military pulled back from the city. Dozens of Ukrainian civilians were slain in the town during Russia’s month-long occupation, with Yablunska street in particular going on to become emblematic of the atrocities carried out by Putin’s soldiers in the regions around Kyiv on April 2, 2022
Coffins are seen from above being buried in a row of graves during a funeral ceremony at a cemetery in Bucha on April 18, 2022
In response, economic and diplomatic repercussions have rippled across the globe.
The West have continued to hit Moscow with sanctions, cutting its biggest banks off from the SWIFT financial network, curbing its access to technology and restricting its ability to export oil and gas.
As a result of the crippling sanctions, Russia was forced to miss a key payment deadline in June, meaning Moscow defaulted on its foreign debt for the first time since the Bolshevik coup more than a century ago.
Moscow has retaliated to the Western sanctions by cutting off the supplies of cheap natural gas to European countries, driving up inflation and energy prices there. European officials accused Russia of ‘energy blackmail’ after its state-owned gas exporter Gazprom closed its Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany.
Higher costs for energy and food have destabilised business activity around the world.
While Western nations are supporting Ukraine militarily, financially and politically, China, India and countries in the global south have proven ambivalent about Western arguments that Ukraine is the front line of a fight for freedom and democracy.
And in a blow to the West, the Kremlin has sought to replace revenues lost from its oil and gas exports to Europe with a pivot to China, India and other Asian countries. Trade between Russia and China hit a record high of $190billion last year.
Volodymyr Zelensky’s full speech
Great People of Great Ukraine!
A year ago, on this day, from this very place, at about seven in the morning, I addressed you with a short statement. It lasted only 67 seconds. It contained the two most important things, then and now. That Russia started a full-scale war against us. And that we are strong. We are ready for anything. We will defeat everyone. Because we are Ukraine!
That is how February 24, 2022 began. The longest day of our lives. The hardest day of our modern history. We woke up early and haven’t fallen asleep since.
Some people were afraid, some were shocked, some did not know what to say, but everyone felt what to do. There were traffic jams on the roads, but many people were going to get weapons. Queues were forming. Some people stood at the borders, but many went to military registration and enlistment offices, and territorial defense units.
We did not raise the white flag, and began to defend the blue and yellow. We were not afraid, we did not break down, we did not surrender. The symbol of this was the border guards of Zmiinyi Island and the route they told the Russian warship.
Our faith has grown stronger. Our morale has been reinforced. We endured the first day of a full-scale war. We didn’t know what would happen tomorrow, but we realized for sure: every tomorrow is worth fighting for!
And we fought. And we fiercely fought for every day. And we endured the second day. And then – the third. Three days that we were predicted to last. They threatened that in 72 hours we would not exist. But we survived the fourth day. And then the fifth. And today we have been standing for exactly one year. And we still know: every tomorrow is worth fighting for!
I am grateful to all those who make our resistance possible. These are all our defenders. The Armed Forces of Ukraine. Ground Forces, our infantry and tank-men. Air and Naval Forces. Artillery, air defense, paratroopers, intelligence, border guards. The Special Operations Forces, the Security Service, the National Guard, the police, the territorial defense units – all our security and defense forces. Thanks to you, Ukraine stands. And we endured the furious month and the furious beginning of the war.
And then came spring. New attacks, new wounds, new pain. Everyone saw the true nature of our enemy. The shelling of the maternity hospital, the drama theater in Mariupol, Mykolaiv Regional State Administration, Svobody Square in Kharkiv, the train station in Kramatorsk. We saw Bucha, Irpin, Borodyanka. The whole world clearly realized what the Russian world really means. What Russia is capable of.
At the same time, the world saw what Ukraine is capable of. These are the new heroes. Defenders of Kyiv, defenders of Azovstal. New feats performed by entire cities. Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Mariupol, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Hostomel, Volnovakha, Bucha, Irpin, Okhtyrka. Hero Cities. The capitals of invincibility. New symbols. And with that, new assessments and forecasts for Ukraine.
The first month of the war. And the first turning point in the war. The first changes in the world’s perception of Ukraine. It did not fall in three days. It stopped the second army of the world.
We took new hits every day, learned about new tragedies every day, but we endured thanks to those who gave it all they got every day. For the sake of others.
These are our medics who rescue wounded soldiers on the frontline, perform surgeries under fire, deliver babies in bomb shelters, and stay on duty for days and weeks. Like our rescuers and firefighters who pull people out of the rubble and fire 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And our railroad workers who have been evacuating hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians since the beginning of the war without sleep or rest.
And then there were the first offensives, the first achievements, the first liberated territories. The first and not the last Chornobaivka. Expulsion of the occupiers from the Kyiv, Sumy, and Chernihiv regions. Our Stuhna. Vilkha. Our Neptune and the sinking Moskva cruiser. The first Ramstein. And the second ever Lend-Lease.
Ukraine has surprised the world. Ukraine has inspired the world. Ukraine has united the world. There are thousands of words to prove it, but a few will suffice. HIMARS, Patriot, Abrams, IRIS-T, Challenger, NASAMS, Leopard.
I thank all of our partners, allies and friends who have stood side by side with us throughout the year. I am glad that the international anti-Putin coalition has grown so much that it requires a separate address. I will deliver it shortly. Definitely.
I also thank our foreign policy army. Divisions of our diplomats, ambassadors, representatives in international organizations and institutions. All those who are fighting the occupiers with fire and sword of international law, achieving new sanctions and recognition of the terrorist state as a terrorist state.
The war changed the fate of many families. It rewrote the history of our families. It changed our customs and traditions. Grandfathers used to tell their grandchildren how they beat the Nazis. Now grandchildren tell their grandfathers how they beat the Rashists. Mothers and grandmothers used to knit scarves, now they weave camouflage nets. Children used to ask Santa for smartphones and gadgets, but now they give pocket money and raise money for our soldiers.
In fact, every Ukrainian has lost someone in the past year. A father, a son, a brother, a mother, a daughter, a sister. A loved one. A close friend, colleague, neighbor, acquaintance. My condolences.
Almost everyone has at least one contact in their phone who will never pick up the phone again. Will never answer a text message ‘How are you?’. These simple words have acquired a new meaning during the year of war. Every day, millions of Ukrainians have written or spoken this question to their loved ones millions of times. Every day, someone did not receive an answer. Every day, the occupiers killed our relatives and friends.
We will not erase their names from the phone or from our own memory. We will never forget them. We will never forgive that. We will never rest until the Russian murderers face deserved punishment. The punishment of the International Tribunal. The judgment of God. Of our warriors. Or all of them together.
The verdict is obvious. 9 years ago, the neighbor became an aggressor. A year ago, the aggressor became an executioner, looter and terrorist. We have no doubt that they will be held accountable. We have no doubt that we will win.
In the summer we felt it. We passed 100 days of war. We received EU candidate status, returned Zmiinyi Island, heard the first ‘Bavovna’ in Crimea, saw fireworks at the occupier’s warehouses and Antonivskyi Bridge.
August was the first month when the occupiers did not take a single Ukrainian city. Threats and ultimata about denazification were replaced by gestures of goodwill. And we felt then that our victory was inevitable. It is close. It will come.
And then came the autumn. And our counteroffensive. The liberation of Izyum, Balakliya, Kupyansk, Lyman, the Kherson region and the city of Kherson. We saw how people there met our military. How they cherished the Ukrainian flag. How they were waiting and returned to Ukraine.
I want to address those who are still waiting. Our citizens who are now under temporary occupation. Ukraine has not abandoned you, has not forgotten about you, has not given up on you. One way or another, we will liberate all our lands. We will do everything for Ukraine to return. And to all those who are now forced to stay abroad, we will do everything for you to return to Ukraine. We will do everything to make it possible.
We will fight and bring back every single one of our captive soldiers. Only all this together will be a victory.
We can see it even in the dark. Despite the constant massive missile attacks and power outages. We see the light of this victory.
In their memories of their first feelings on February 24, 2022, people mention shock, pain, and uncertainty. A year after the full-scale invasion, the faith in victory is 95%. The main emotion we feel when we think about Ukraine is pride.
For every Ukrainian man, every Ukrainian woman. Pride for us. We have become one big army. We have become a team where someone finds, someone packs, someone brings, but everyone donates.
I am grateful to our people, grateful to our multi-million army of volunteers and citizens who do care, who can collect and get everything necessary.
We have become one. Our journalists and media are a united front fighting against lies and panic.
We have become one family. There are no more strangers among us. Ukrainians today are all fellows. Ukrainians have sheltered Ukrainians, opened their homes and hearts to those who were forced to flee the war.
We withstand all threats, shelling, cluster bombs, cruise missiles, kamikaze drones, blackouts, and cold. We are stronger than that.
It was a year of resilience. A year of care. A year of bravery. A year of pain. A year of hope. A year of endurance. A year of unity.
The year of invincibility. The furious year of invincibility.
Its main result is that we endured. We were not defeated. And we will do everything to gain victory this year!
Glory to Ukraine!