EU accession negotiations, counteroffensiveUkraine has had a tumultuous year in 2023.

With that in mind, the editorial team at Kyiv Post selected a range of quotes that defined each month. The quotes chosen – with contexts – should provide a glimpse into wartime Ukraine and convey the general sentiment among Ukrainians over the events that took place this year.

The quotes are not only attributed to major political figures however, as the editorial team believed that Ukraine’s global voices should not just come from politicians, but also ordinary Ukrainians who persevered despite the circumstances.

“We must increase fire, not ceasefire.” – Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis

In January, Putin said he would be open to dialog with Ukraine if the latter were to cede occupied territories to Russia.

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Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis claimed that Putin’s comments on negotiations at the beginning of this year were by no means a call for peace, but it was simply that Russia was losing the war. Therefore, Ukraine and the West must keep on fighting instead.

To date, the majority of Ukrainians still believe that the true path to peace in Ukraine is a full withdrawal of Russian troops, as events that unfolded since 2014 – as well as Putin’s recent comments on Russia’s war goals – have demonstrated that Putin aimed for a full subjugation of the Ukrainian state.

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Here’s the full quote from Landsbergis: “Putin claims he wants negotiations not because he is generous, but because he is losing. We must increase fire, not ceasefire.”

“Almost everyone has at least one person on their phone who will never pick up the phone again.” – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The quote came from Zelensky's speech upon the war’s one-year mark in February.

For those in Ukraine, this is a reality one has to grapple with every day. The quote is a reminder that the war in Ukraine is not just an event broadcasted on television and printed in newspapers, but an actual tragedy with real-life ramifications, and even the best post-war security guarantees cannot resurrect the dead.

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“It’s in the people.” – Factory Director Yuriy Fillipov.

Fillipov made this comment in March when he was asked how his factory continued to function despite constant Russian missile strikes.

Fillipov’s factory, the Darnytskyi Wagon Repair Plant, was hit multiple times since the full-scale invasion started, and because of the damages, workers had to work outdoors despite the freezing temperatures.

As Fillipov was working in a cold, windowless office, he was asked how the company continued to work efficiently, to which he answered: “It's in the people.”

“Hello, mom! It’s me … I’m already in Ukraine, mom!” – Unnamed Ukrainian Prisoner of War (POW).

This came from the first phone call a Ukrainian POW had with his mother upon his return from Russian capture.

In this video published in April, the young soldier could be seen talking to his mother on the phone on speaker, presumably for the first time since his captivity.

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After saying “Hello, mom! It’s me,” the soldier could not hold back his tears and tried to compose himself before telling his mother about his return to Ukraine.

Unfortunately, this call never came for thousands of mothers in Ukraine.

“The war is started by career soldiers, and finished by teachers, engineers, accountants.” – General Valery Zaluzhny.

Ukraine’s top commander Varlery Zaluzhny said this in an interview about the war.

In this interview published in May, Zaluzhny admitted that Ukraine lost a good many professional soldiers and that there is still a “very long and difficult” path to victory. As the war drags on, it is likely that many more ordinary Ukrainians – teachers, engineers and accountants – will need to take up arms and might never return.

“Every day, every meter is given by blood.” – General Valery Zaluzhny.

Another quote from Zaluzhny, this time about the counteroffensive.

This quote came from his interview with The Washington Post in June, where he said comments on the slow counteroffensive “pisses [him] off” [translation and paraphrasing by The Washington Post – ed.] as Ukraine needed more weapons – at least enough artillery shells to match that of Russia’s – since the lack of firepower placed Ukraine at a disadvantage.

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As a result, every inch of liberated territory was paved with Ukrainian blood, he said.

“I don’t want to leave my family and friends and go into uncertainty, where no one and nothing is waiting for me.” – 17-year-old Dmytro.

In Ukraine, adolescence comes with a bitter decision.

This quote came from a Kyiv Post report in July that documented the dilemma faced by every 17-year-old as they faced the life-or-death decision of whether they should stay in Ukraine.

The dilemma stems from the fact that every man turning 18 is not able to leave the country under martial law, and those coming of age are faced with an important decision – give up everything to go abroad or stay and potentially get called up for service.

“We are ready to exchange Belgorod for Ukraine’s membership in NATO.” – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

This is a humorous answer from Zelensky when a journalist asked him whether Ukraine would consider exchanging territories for NATO membership during a visit to Denmark in August.

The twist is that Belgorod is a Russian city, and his comment came after the pro-Ukrainian factions in Belogord staged multiple incursions earlier this year, bringing the fight to mainland Russia for the first time after the full-scale invasion began in February 2022.

“Evil cannot be trusted.” – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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This is part of Zelensky's comments about countries negotiating with Russia behind Ukraine’s back at the UN General Assembly in September.

“I am aware of attempts to make certain secretive agreements. Evil cannot be trusted. Ask Prigozhin if one [bet] on Putin’s promises,” he said, referring to former Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin after his failed mutiny and subsequent death that many believed to be an assassination.

Again, this is a view shared by many Ukrainians that any negotiations and compromises with Putin are futile, as demonstrated by the full-scale invasion itself.

“We only delay its detonation.” – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

This quote, in reference to the “peace at any cost” notion, came from an article from Time magazine published in October that sparked much controversy in Ukraine and abroad.

The article portrayed Zelensky as a president at the helm of a corrupt government and as someone unable to listen to the growing calls of close advisors, but it also included his comments about the prospects of Ukraine – a view shared by many Ukrainians, regardless of their stance on Zelensky’s presidency.

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“For us it would mean leaving this wound open for future generations. Maybe it will calm some people, at least those who want to wrap things up at any price. But for me, that’s a problem, because we are left with this explosive force. We only delay its detonation,” Zelensky said.

“We are not ready to give our freedom to this f*cking [sic] terrorist Putin ... That’s why we are fighting” – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

This comment from Zelensky sparked some controversies in the West as he said it live on NBC News.

During the interview, he explained that Ukraine does not want to keep fighting without an end in sight as the cost is high, often taking the best men and women Ukraine has to offer. But with that being said, Ukrainians are not ready to give up their freedom to the “f*cking terrorist Putin” – referring to the war crimes Russia has committed in Ukraine – which is why Ukraine is still fighting.

“Wait for us, we will definitely all come back.” – Unnamed Ukrainian Soldier.

This came from a viral video on social media recorded by a soldier for his mother – and those of other soldiers.

Against the backdrop of the snowy frontline, the soldier first addressed the message to his mother that he was well-fed and well-dressed, and asked her not to worry.

Then, he addressed the message to all mothers out there – that one day they would all return, and they could return to the blissfully mundane quarrels as they were used to – after the war.

“Wait for us, we will definitely all come back, and you can once again quarrel with us at home, tell us what we are doing wrong, and cook something delicious for us,” said the unnamed Ukrainian soldier.

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