One Year On: World leaders on Ukraine war anniversary

AFP , Friday 24 Feb 2023

Leaders around the world on Friday weighed in on the one-year anniversary of Russia invading Ukraine, the large majority pledging firm support to Kyiv despite Moscow's defiance.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) awarding a servicewoman during a ceremony at St Sophia Square in Kyiv, on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2023. AFP


Here is what they said:

'Fight for freedom'

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Ukrainians "will no doubt prevail" in their battle against Russia a year on from the invasion on February 24, 2022.

"Freedom is not for free. We must fight for it every day," he said.

"Today it is the Ukrainian people who are bravely fighting for their freedom. And despite a dark year of despair and destruction, their determination and courage will no doubt prevail."

Russian 'failure'

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said Russian President Vladimir Putin has "failed to achieve a single" goal.

"One year on from the start of his brutal war, Putin has failed to achieve a single one of his strategic goals... Instead of wiping Ukraine from the map, he is confronted with a nation more vigorous than ever," she said.

'No military aid to Russia'

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the Group of Seven wealthy nations at a virtual meeting later on Friday would call on countries to not send military aid to Russia.

"The G7 intends to call for such support to cease," he said.

He said the talks would see the group discuss new sanctions on Moscow.

US sanctions

The United States announced sweeping sanctions aimed at increasing economic pain for Russia.

The new sanctions, which target sectors including banks, mining, and the defence industry, will hit "over 200 individuals and entities, including both Russian and third-country actors across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East that are supporting Russia's war effort," the White House said.

World 'united'

Britain's King Charles III condemned Russia's "unprovoked full-scale attack" on Ukraine.

"It has now been a year that the people of Ukraine have suffered unimaginably from an unprovoked full-scale attack on their nation.

"The world has watched in horror at all the unnecessary suffering. Together, we stand united," he said.

'To victory'

President Emmanuel Macron reiterated France's support for Ukraine.

"People of Ukraine, France stands by your side. To solidarity. To victory. To peace", he tweeted.

'Clear signal' of support

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki travelled to Kyiv "to give a clear and measurable signal of further support in defence of Ukraine against Russia", a Polish government spokesman said.

Neighbouring Poland hosts more than 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees out of the eight million who fled after the invasion, by far the largest amount among European countries.

'Free world indebted'

Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said the "free world is indebted" to Ukrainians fighting to defend European values.

"Ukraine is not and will not be alone, because it is also defending the values of freedom and democracy on which the European identity was born. The free world is indebted to Ukrainian women and men," the far-right leader said.

'Russia will win'

Going against the tide, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev vowed success in what Moscow has called its Ukraine "special military operation", saying Russia was ready to fight all the way to the Polish border if necessary.

"Victory will be achieved," he said. "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".

Peace talks

China called for urgent peace talks to end the war.

It released a 12-point paper calling for a "political settlement" of the crisis following accusations from the West that China is considering arming Russia, a claim Beijing has dismissed as false.

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