Ukrainian leader vows to defeat Russia on anniversary of invasion

Sounding defiant tone as morning breaks on day of commemorations, Zelensky congratulates compatriots on resilience in Europe’s deadliest war since WWII

By JOHN LEICESTER and HANNA ARHIROVA

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, holds the flag of a military unit as an officer kisses it, during commemorative event on the occasion of the Russia Ukraine war one year anniversary in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 24, 2023. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s president pledged to push for victory in 2023 as he and other Ukrainians on Friday marked the somber anniversary of the Russian invasion that he called “the longest day of our lives.”

As morning broke on a day of commemorations and reflection, President Volodymyr Zelensky struck a tone of grim defiance and used the Feb. 24 anniversary to congratulate Ukrainians on their resilience in the face of Europe’s biggest and deadliest war since World War II. He said they had proven themselves to be invincible in what he called “a year of pain, sorrow, faith and unity.”

“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 in an early morning video address.

It was “the longest day of our lives. The hardest day of our modern history. We woke up early and haven’t fallen asleep since,” he said.

Ukrainians attended memorials, held 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. Although Friday marked the anniversary of the full-scale invasion, combat between Russian-backed forces and Ukrainian troops has raged in the country’s east since 2014. New video from there shot with a drone for The Associated Press eshowed how the town of Marinka has been razed, along with others.

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