On war anniversary eve, Zelensky says Ukraine 'will prevail'
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday expressed confidence in his country's victory over invading Russian forces as fears mounted of strikes on the war's first anniversary.
The war has seen Western leaders step up their support for Kyiv, and on Thursday, the eve of the anniversary, G7 ministers discussed new sanctions on Russia as the UN General Assembly prepared to vote on a motion calling for "lasting" peace.
The United States will announce "sweeping" new sanctions, the White House said Thursday.
Zelensky vowed to keep up the fight as Ukraine prepared to mark one year since the invasion on Friday.
"We have not broken down, we have overcome many ordeals and we will prevail," Zelensky said on social media.
"We will hold to account all those who brought this evil, this war to our land."
In the capital Kyiv, which saw Russian troops at its doorstep at the start of the invasion last February and relentless attacks on energy infrastructure since, residents remained defiant.
"This has been the most difficult year of my life and that of all Ukrainians," said Diana Shestakova, 23, whose boyfriend has spent the last year away in the army.
"I am sure that we will be victorious, but we don't know how long we will have to wait and how many victims there are still to come," said Shestakova, who works for a publishing house.
'I DON'T SEE FUTURE'
Ahead of the war's first anniversary, Ukraine's military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov warned that Russia was planning a missile attack on Friday to mark the day.
In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin promised victory as he laid flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before meeting soldiers in Red Square under blue skies and brisk temperatures.
Russia's "unbreakable unity is the key to our victory," said Putin, who has likened his offensive to Moscow's fight against Nazi Germany in 1941-1945.
Political commentators say the 70-year-old Kremlin chief is steeling Russians for long conflict with the West, insisting the country's survival is at stake.
Many Russians have embraced that rhetoric.
"The country is really changing for the better," Lyubov Yudina, a 48-year-old guard, told AFP.
Yudina said a lot of her friends had seen their sons drafted.
"Some of them died. That's how it is."
But others say the country is heading in the wrong direction.
"I don't see any future now. I do not see why I would have children, for what reason I would have children now?" said Ruslan Melnikov, a 28-year-old teacher.
The year-long conflict has devastated swathes of Ukraine, turned Russia into a pariah in the West and, according to Western sources, is estimated to have caused over 150,000 casualties on either side
In India, Group of Seven finance ministers met in the city of Bengaluru to discuss further sanctions and more financial help for Ukraine.
The G7 said that for 2023, based on Ukraine's needs, it had increased its commitment of budget and economic support to $39 billion.
It added that sanctions so far have "significantly undermined Russia's capacity to wage its illegal war" and that the G7 would "take further actions as needed".
The United States and its G7 allies plan to unveil "a big new package of sanctions" around the anniversary, including measures to crack down on the evasion of existing sanctions, a senior US official has said.
"The United States will implement sweeping sanctions against key sectors that generate revenue for Putin," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Thursday.
Also on Thursday, the United Nations was expected to vote on a resolution demanding Russia withdraw troops from Ukraine.
While non-binding, the vote will lay out the extent of support for Kyiv around the world.
"Russia can and must stop, tomorrow," French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said on the second day of debate, endorsing the resolution.
The latest Western leader to visit the Ukrainian capital, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, said he hoped to send up to ten Leopard tanks to Ukraine in the coming months.
After months of hesitation European countries agreed in January to send battle tanks to Ukraine to help repel Russian forces.
Russia has denounced the growing arms deliveries to Ukraine, saying they only lead to escalation.
"Today we are once again in serious danger," Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Thursday.
"Using Ukraine, the collective West is seeking to dismember Russia, to deprive it of independence."