Ukraine on Saturday vowed to triumph over Russian "darkness" as it entered a new year of war weakened by a lack of Western aid and with Moscow emboldened by fresh gains.

To mark the second anniversary, a virtual summit of G7 leaders was due to take place at Kyiv's Saint Sophia Cathedral later Saturday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attending.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a "special military operation" at dawn on February 24, 2022, many expected victory within days, but Ukraine fought back, forcing Russian troops into humiliating retreats.

Since then, however, Ukraine has suffered setbacks with the failure of its 2023 counteroffensive.

The Russian army has in turn built up a position of strength thanks to booming war production, while Ukraine's troops are short of manpower and running low on Western-supplied ammunition for artillery and air defences.

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Saturday's anniversary will see visits by Western leaders including EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, who praised Ukraine's "extraordinary resistance" as she arrived in the capital.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also arrived in Kyiv to take part in the G7 summit.

But the overall picture remains bleak for Ukraine due to the US Congress blocking a vital $60 billion aid package, on top of delays in promised European deliveries.

US President Joe Biden renewed calls for Republican lawmakers to unblock the additional funding, warning that "history is waiting" and "failure to support Ukraine at this critical moment will not be forgotten".

Ukrainian 10th Graders Will Study Weapons and Military Equipment
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Ukrainian 10th Graders Will Study Weapons and Military Equipment

In an attempt to transform Ukrainian society so it is better equipped to defend itself, Ukrainian high-schoolers will be taught first aid and how to handle weapons and military equipment.

Still, Ukrainian officials voiced defiance on the anniversary.

"I am convinced that unity is our victory. And it will definitely happen. Because light always conquers darkness!" the Ukrainian army's chief Oleksandr Syrsky said on social media.

- 'War is our life' -

Russia is attacking hard in the east, with the destroyed town of Maryinka near Donetsk the latest hotspot after it captured the heavily fortified town of Avdiivka on Feb. 17.

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Ukraine's economy has also been hit by a border blockade by Polish farmers that Kyiv says threatens exports and has held up deliveries of weapons.

In Kyiv, the mood was grim but still defiant as people said they had grown accustomed to wartime conditions.

"For women of Ukraine, this is our heartache -- for our husbands, for our children, for our fathers," said nutritionist Olhga Byrko in Kyiv.

"I would really like this to end as quickly as possible."

Yuriy Pasichnyk, a 38-year-old businessman, told AFP Ukrainians "have learned to live with it... now the war is our life".

And 51-year-old Kostyantyn Gofman called for "more weapons so that we can drive this evil spirit out of our land and start rebuilding our Ukraine".

Ukraine needs almost half a trillion dollars to rebuild towns and cities destroyed by Russia's invasion, according to the latest estimate by the World Bank, European Union, United Nations and Ukrainian government.

Ukraine has estimated that around 50,000 civilians have been killed.

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