Western leaders slam Russia on first anniversary of Ukraine war

Ukraine’s allies promise to stand with Kyiv as the conflict enters a second year, while China treads a careful line.

Supporters of Ukraine hold a minute of silence in front of the EU Parliament building on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, in Brussels, Belgium February 24, 2023. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Supporters of Ukraine hold a minute's silence in front of the European Parliament building on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, in Brussels, Belgium [Yves Herman/Reuters]

Western leaders are voicing their support of Ukraine on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy: ‘2023 will be the year of our victory!’

Zelenskyy pledged to push for victory in 2023 after what he called “a year of pain, sorrow, faith and the unity”.

“We know that 2023 will be the year of our victory!” he said in a tweet.

US President Joe Biden: NATO ‘more unified than ever before’

Biden on Friday said Russian President Vladimir Putin had “met the bravery of Ukraine and the iron will of nations everywhere”.

He added that NATO was “stronger and more unified than ever before” despite Moscow’s attempts to “fracture and divide” the alliance.

Meanwhile, Washington announced a new $2bn package of long-term security assistance for Ukraine. The aid will include more rounds of ammunition and a variety of small, high-tech drones, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The United States also slapped new sanctions on Russia and its allies, and more export controls and tariffs aimed at undermining Moscow’s ability to wage war.

NATO: ‘Russia bears full responsibility’

In a statement, NATO said it was “resolute” in its support of Ukraine.

“Russia bears full responsibility for this war, a blatant violation of international law and the UN Charter,” NATO said. “Russia’s efforts to break the resolve of the brave people of Ukraine are failing.”

Moscow must “immediately” end its “illegal war” which is affecting global food and energy supplies and answer for its “war crimes”, it added.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz: ‘Putin can end this war’

Scholz said Putin will not reach his aims in Ukraine.

“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,” he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron: ‘France stands by your side’

Macron reiterated France’s support for Ukraine.

“People of Ukraine, France stands by your side. To solidarity. To victory. To peace”, he tweeted, first in Ukrainian, then French and lastly English.

The Eiffel Tower is lit up in the national blue-and-yellow colours of Ukraine, to mark the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Paris, France.
The Eiffel Tower is lit up in the national blue and yellow colours of Ukraine, to mark the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of the country, in Paris, France, on February 23, 2023 [Sarah Meyssonnier/Reuters]

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak: ‘We’ll continue providing vital resources Ukraine needs’

Sunak said: “We have stood shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine from the outset. We’ll continue providing the vital resources Ukraine needs for as long as it takes.”

Britain also loaded more sanctions against Russia, including export bans on every item it has used on the battlefield.

The Foreign Office said the internationally coordinated sanctions and trade measures would target aircraft parts, radio equipment and electronic components.

It will also target more executives, including those at the nuclear power plant Rosatom and defence groups.

China’s foreign minister: ‘Conflict and war benefit no one’

China – which has refrained from condemning its ally Russia or referring to its intervention in its neighbour as an “invasion” – has a 12-point foreign ministry paper for a comprehensive ceasefire and a gradual de-escalation in Ukraine.

“Conflict and war benefit no one. All parties must stay rational and exercise restraint, avoid fanning the flames and aggravating tensions, and prevent the crisis from deteriorating further or even spiralling out of control,” the ministry said in its paper.

Putin has signalled he will double down on the Ukraine conflict, despite major battlefield defeats in the past year, and has raised the spectre of nuclear weapons.

China said they must be avoided. “Nuclear weapons must not be used and nuclear wars must not be fought,” the foreign ministry said. “We oppose development, use of biological and chemical weapons by any country under any circumstances.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to deliver a “peace speech” later on Friday, in which he is likely to urge peace while avoiding condemnation of Russia.

King Charles III: Ukrainians have shown ‘remarkable courage’

King Charles III praised Ukraine’s “remarkable courage and resilience” on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

“It has now been a year that the people of Ukraine have suffered unimaginably from an unprovoked full-scale attack on their nation,” the British monarch said in a statement.

“They have shown truly remarkable courage and resilience in the face of such human tragedy,” he added.

UK King Charles and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy
Britain’s King Charles III meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his first visit to the UK since the Russian invasion of Ukraine at Buckingham Palace, London, on February 8, 2023 [Aaron Chown/Pool via Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies