Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday, Feb. 23, expressed confidence in his country's victory over invading Russian forces with fears mounting of strikes on the war's first anniversary.
The nearly year-long conflict has seen Western leaders step up their support for Kyiv, and on Thursday G7 ministers discussed new sanctions on Russia as the UN General Assembly prepared to vote on a motion calling for "lasting" peace.
"We have not broken down, we have overcome many ordeals and we will prevail. We will hold to account all those who brought this evil, this war to our land," Zelensky said on social media.
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, who works for a publishing house and 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."
In the western city of Lviv, a Swiss artist projected images in honor of Ukraine on public buildings on Wednesday night, covering them in blue and yellow peace doves and Ukrainian tridents.
- 'We survived' -
Ahead of the war's first anniversary on February 24, Ukraine's military intelligence chief said Russia was planning a missile attack to mark the day.
"February 23-24, they have two dates," Kyrylo Budanov said in an interview to newspaper Ukrainskaya Pravda, adding: "Believe me, we have survived this more than 20 times already."
The year-long conflict has devastated swathes of Ukraine, turned Russia into a pariah in the West and according to Western sources, has caused 150,000 casualties on each side.
In India, Group of Seven finance ministers met in the city of Bengaluru to discuss further sanctions and more financial help for Ukraine.
They urged the International Monetary Fund on Thursday to deliver a new aid package to Ukraine by the end of March.
A senior US official has said that the United States and its G7 allies planned to unveil "a big new package of sanctions" around the anniversary, including measures to crack down on the evasion of existing sanctions.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told the G7 meeting that the unprecedented Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over the last 12 months "had a very significant negative effect on Russia so far."
The latest Western leader to visit the Ukrainian capital, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, tweeted that Madrid would "stand with Ukraine and its people until peace returns to Europe" after arriving in Kyiv by train and before meeting President Zelensky.
- 'Abyss of war' -
In New York, the UN General Assembly was on Thursday to bring to a vote a motion backed by Kyiv and its allies calling for a "just and lasting peace".
"Never in recent history has the line between good and evil been so clear. One country merely wants to live. The other wants to kill and destroy," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the world body on Wednesday.
The Kremlin's UN ambassador accused the West of being "ready to plunge the entire world into the abyss of war" to defeat Russia.
And Russian leader Vladimir Putin vowed to strengthen his country's defense capabilities as he laid flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow before meeting soldiers in Red Square under blue skies and brisk temperatures.
Russia will equip troops with "new strike systems, reconnaissance and communication equipment, drones and artillery systems," he said, hailing Russian soldiers fighting "heroically" in Ukraine and defending "our historical lands".
Russia's "unbreakable unity is the key to our victory," he said.
While US President Joe Biden paid a hugely symbolic trip to Kyiv to show support this week, strengthened Russo-Chinese ties were on display in Moscow as Putin met Beijing's top diplomat, Wang Yi.
Their meeting, during which Beijing presented its views toward a "political settlement" in Ukraine, came after Washington and NATO voiced concern that China could be preparing to supply Russia with weapons.
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