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Ukraine's Zelensky calls for further victories against Russia

President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed Friday to do everything to defeat Russia this year, as the first Leopard tanks arrived in Ukraine on the anniversary of the start of Europe's largest conflict since World War II.

Agencies and A News WORLD
Published February 25,2023
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gestures as he gives a press conference in Kyiv on February 24, 2023, on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP Photo)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky encouraged his fighters to deliver further military victories as his country continues to battle the full-scale invasion launched by Moscow's forces a year ago.

"If we all do our homework, victory will inevitably await us," he said. "We will win because truth is on our side," Zelensky said.

However, he also underscored the importance of the world's full support, if Kiev's forces are to succeed in repelling Moscow's army.

And, he said, Kiev's fighters must achieve military successes in order to shore up support from abroad. "Nobody loves losers," he said.

Reflecting on the war during the past year, Zelensky called the massacre of civilians at Bucha the worst moment, saying it was the most terrible day.

He recalled the images of dead civilians found in the Kiev suburb, some with their hands tied behind their backs and demanded that Russia be prosecuted for war crimes.

The best moment of the war was still ahead, namely the "day of victory," he told the press.

In response to a question about his biggest disappointment, he said that many people had left the capital and the country without offering up any resistance. "All these people disappointed me," he said.

Zelensky earlier gave a speech at Kiev's St Sophia Cathedral, where he handed out service medals to soldiers.

Those attending held a minute's silence for the Ukrainian victims of the war, according to a dpa reporter at the scene.

The war, which many thought would be over days after it started, shows no sign of coming to an end a year on, with the two sides refusing any kind of compromise.

In the early hours of February 24, 2022, Russian forces invaded Ukrainian territory on multiple fronts. Moscow has since annexed four territories in the east and south of Ukraine, in violation of international law.

Initially during the invasion, Russian forces had also advanced towards Kiev, but have since withdrawn from the area around the capital.

The fighting is now concentrated around the east and south, with particularly fierce fighting around the town of Bakhmut.

Together with the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which was annexed in 2014, Russia currently occupies around 18% of Ukraine's territory.

On the anniversary, both sides fought fierce battles on the stalled front without any major changes.

The Ukrainian general staff spoke of further Russian attacks in the direction of the cities of Kupyansk, Liman, Bakhmut and Avdiivka in the east. However, the advance of the Russian troops was repelled, they said.

Moscow also named Kupyansk, Liman, Avdiivka and Vuhledar as places where its forces had carried out attacks.

The fighting has taken a heavy toll on the embattled nation's economy. Kiev announced its budget forecast for 2023, predicting a shortfall of around $38 billion.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told the Ukrainian edition of Forbes that the country had already received several commitments from international partners, pledging to cover the deficit.

There were numerous pledges of support on Friday, including from the 30 members of NATO - who include Ukraine's biggest military backers.

"We reaffirm our unwavering support for Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity," the NATO statement said. "Russia bears full responsibility for this war, a blatant violation of international law and the UN Charter."

Capitals around the world announced support for Ukraine, including the United States which pledged $2 billion more in military aid. Britain announced more sanctions on Russia, while several European countries announced weapons deliveries.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visited Ukraine, as Warsaw announced that the first of its German-made Leopard tanks had already been delivered to Ukrainian forces.

Together with the latest commitments including from Germany, that enables Berlin and its partners to send a battalion in support of Kiev.

Zelensky also called on the international community to discuss his peace plan at a summit. "The more countries participate, the more support we will have," he said.

The summit should include not only Ukraine's partners in the West, but also Latin American nations, African countries and China and India, he said. No date has yet been set for the summit.

His "Ukrainian peace formula" includes the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory, the release of all prisoners of war, a tribunal to bring Russian war criminals to justice, and security guarantees for Ukraine.

His comments came on the day that China called for a ceasefire.

A 12-point position paper on the conflict released by the Foreign Ministry in Beijing called for "direct dialogue," and said that conflict and war "benefit no one."

The paper did not call on Russia to leave occupied Ukrainian territory and Kiev dismissed the plan, which was met with scepticism in many places.

Another international actor that has left diplomatic dialogue open with Russia is Türkiye, whose president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, urged his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts for a "fair peace" process in two separate phone calls on Friday.

Both sides must focus on "a solution based on ceasefire and negotiations," Erdoğan told Zelensky in a separate phone call.

Zelensky held out the prospect that he might meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping. "I believe this will be beneficial for our countries and global security," Zelensky said.

"This is not just about war. It's about us being states interested in maintaining economic relations."