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Ukrainians pray, prepare for strikes on anniversary of invasion

KIEV – Ukrainians were preparing to hold ceremonies on Friday to mark the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of their war-torn country, at which President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pledged them victory even at the risk of fresh missile attacks.

Exactly one year ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin stunned the world by sending troops across the border, a move seen as punishment for Kiev’s westward swing.

On Friday, Zelensky will hold a press conference to mark the bitter milestone, while commemorations will be held across the country.

One of the ceremonies will be held in the city of Bucha, which has become the epitome of Russian atrocities, while priests will lead prayers for peace.

“The evil is still there and the fight goes on,” Zelenskyj said late Thursday.

“But we know for sure that it will end with our victory,” he added.

Ukrainian intelligence has warned of possible new attacks from Moscow, including rocket attacks.

Western nations that provided financial and military support to Kiev during the war should also mark the anniversary of Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II.

The United States and its G7 allies planned to unveil a new sanctions package, while US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Washington would send Ukraine a new $2 billion military aid package.

On Thursday, the United Nations voted overwhelmingly to demand that Russia withdraw its troops from Ukraine “immediately” and “unconditionally”.

“America stands with Ukraine”

This week, US President Joe Biden surprised the world by visiting Kiev to promise new arms shipments.

“A year later, Kiev is standing. Ukraine stands,” he tweeted. “Democracy stands. America – and the world – stands with Ukraine.”

In Paris, the Eiffel Tower will be illuminated in the yellow and blue colors of the Ukrainian flag, while in London, MPs and diplomats will pray in a Ukrainian Catholic cathedral.

In Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz was scheduled to speak to reporters while activists plan to set up a Russian tank in front of Moscow’s embassy in Berlin.

Beijing, which has sought to position itself as a neutral party while maintaining close ties with Russia, urged both countries to hold peace talks as soon as possible in a 12-point paper released on Friday.

“All parties should support Russia and Ukraine to work in the same direction and resume direct dialogue as soon as possible,” the paper, published on the Foreign Ministry’s website, reads.

China also stressed its opposition to the use of nuclear weapons, as well as threats to use them.

“The Most Difficult Year”

The years-long war has devastated parts of Ukraine, displaced millions, made Russia a pariah in the West and claimed more than 150,000 casualties on both sides, according to Western sources.

According to a recent Ukrainian poll, 17% of respondents said they lost a loved one in the war.

The study by sociological group Rating also revealed a huge boost in trust in Zelenskyy, the 45-year-old former comedian-turned-war leader.

Around 95 percent of Ukrainians state that they are convinced that Kiev will win.

“This was the most difficult year of my life and that of all Ukrainians,” said Diana Shestakova, 23, in Kiev.

“I’m sure we will win, but we don’t know how long we have to wait.”

“God helps us”

On the front in eastern Ukraine, Kiev’s troops pledged to drive out Moscow’s forces.

“God helps us. No one thought Ukraine would hold,” said a soldier with the callsign Cook.

“I know miracles happen,” said the soldier with the 95th Separate Air Assault Brigade in the eastern Donetsk region.

The Russian attack was launched with the goal of a quick conquest that would lead to surrender and the installation of a pro-Moscow regime.

But Russian forces failed to capture Kiev and have since suffered defeats in north-eastern and southern Ukraine.

Since October, Russia has been wreaking havoc on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, resulting in power outages that have left millions in the dark.

On Friday, the head of Russia’s Wagner Group said his fighters had taken a village near the eastern city of Bakhmut where fierce fighting has been going on for months.

Despite military backlash and unprecedented Western sanctions, 70-year-old Putin has refused to back down, accusing the West of supporting neo-Nazi forces and claiming Russia’s survival is at stake.

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Putin pledged that Moscow would keep fighting in Ukraine and suspended its participation in the last remaining arms control treaty between Russia and the United States.

“We protect people’s lives, our homeland,” Putin said. “And the goal of the West is endless power.”

The Kremlin has put society at loggerheads, banned independent media and imprisoned or expelled prominent critics from the country.

Putin’s attack on Ukraine and the mobilization of reservists have sparked what may be Russia’s largest mass exodus since the Bolshevik revolution in 1917.

But with television propaganda in full swing, despite economic woes and multiplying casualties, many Russians have rallied behind Putin.

“The country is really changing for the better,” said Lyubov Yudina, a 48-year-old security guard.

Others are depressed.

“I see no future now,” said Ruslan Melnikov, a 28-year-old teacher.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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