Zelensky marks anniversary of Russia's invasion with defiant message

‘2023 will be our year of victory!’: President Zelensky marks the anniversary of Putin’s invasion with a defiant message vowing to bring Russian ‘murderers’ to justice after a ‘year of pain, sorrow and unity’

  • Zelensky marked first anniversary of Russia’s invasion with sombre message
  • He described the day of invasion as the ‘most difficult day in our recent history’ 

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 defiance, Zelensky tweeted that Ukrainians had proven themselves to be ‘invincible’ in what he called ‘a year of pain, sorrow, faith and unity’.

Zelensky vowed that Ukraine would win the war this year following a ‘furious year of invincibility’. 

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’. 

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’

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

When the first air strikes struck Ukrainian cities a year ago today, hundreds of thousands fled across the border to neighbouring countries

READ MORE: 365 days of Putin’s bloodshed


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. 

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.

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.

Ukrainian President Zelensky speaks to media in the town of Bucha, northwest of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, on April 4, 2022, following the discovery of war crimes

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 

A woman cries as she tries to find a body of her son among debris of a residential building destroyed during Russia’s invasion in the town of Borodianka, Kyiv region, Ukraine, on April 9 2022

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.

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.

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.

In response, economic and diplomatic repercussions have rippled across the globe.

Western nations are supporting Ukraine militarily, financially and politically. But 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.

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