Berliner Tageblatt - Zelensky presses for arms, vows triumph over Russia on war anniversary

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Zelensky presses for arms, vows triumph over Russia on war anniversary
Zelensky presses for arms, vows triumph over Russia on war anniversary / Photo: © AFP

Zelensky presses for arms, vows triumph over Russia on war anniversary

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pressed his Western allies to step up military supplies and vowed victory over Russia, as Kyiv marked two years since Moscow's invasion on Saturday.

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The Ukrainian leader struck a defiant tone in the capital Kyiv with his troops in the east and south outgunned and outnumbered, and Russia having secured its first territorial gains in almost a year.

Speaking to G7 leaders -- some of whom had travelled to Kyiv -- Zelensky said their "vital support" would help his country prevail on the battlefield.

"And you know perfectly well that we need all this in time, and we count on you," he said.

"Putin can lose this war," he told the virtual G7 leaders' summit, flanked by European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Italy's Giorgia Meloni, who had all travelled to Kyiv.

"Remember that imperial ambitions and revanchism can be defeated only together," Zelensky said.

In a statement following the summit, the G7 called for additional cash to help Kyiv close its funding shortfall.

- 'We will win' -

As the war enters its third year, delays to a crucial $60-billion US funding package have led to Ukrainian ammunition shortages, with Moscow trying to press its advantage following the symbolically important capture of Avdiivka.

But Zelensky and his top commander on Saturday sought to rouse the country's main military and financial backers.

"We will win," Zelensky said earlier during a ceremony at Kyiv's Gostomel airport, which was targeted by Russia on the first day of the all-out assault in 2022.

Ukraine's new military chief Oleksandr Syrsky said he was confident of victory "because light always conquers darkness".

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 his troops into humiliating retreats.

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

Russia has invested heavily in its defence industry and drafted hundreds of thousands of soldiers, while Ukraine is short of manpower and running low on Western-supplied ammunition for artillery and air defences.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg urged Ukraine and its allies not to "lose heart" and von der Leyen praised Ukraine's "extraordinary resistance" as she arrived in the Ukrainian capital.

Kyiv signed security agreements with Ottawa and Rome on Saturday, with Canada saying it would provide a total of $2.2 billion in financial and military support in 2024.

"We will stand with Ukraine with whatever it takes, for as long as it takes," Canada's Trudeau said.

- 'War is our life' -

Kyiv is facing one of its toughest moments since Russia invaded, with delays to promised European artillery shells aggravating the aid impasse in Washington.

Russia is attacking hard in the east after capturing the heavily fortified town of Avdiivka on February 17.

Troops in the east Ukraine mining town of Pokrovsk sent a clear message to the foreign leaders gathered in Kyiv.

"Give us artillery, drones, counter-battery, shells," said a 31-year-old Ukrainian soldier, who identified himself as Woodie.

"Our infantry, armed with assault rifles and grenades, were facing artillery, aircraft, and tanks," added a 39-year-old serviceman from Kyiv, who has been fighting for two years.

Russia has kept up its barrage of devastating drone and missile attacks on Ukraine's cities.

In the latest strikes, Ukrainian authorities said three civilians were killed in the eastern city of Dnipro and in Odesa overnight Friday to Saturday.

In Kyiv, the mood was bleak.

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

"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".

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said air raid sirens had sounded 989 times in the capital over two years of war -- an average of more than once a day.

Ukraine estimates the total number of civilians killed at around 50,000.

- 'Advantage is on our side' -

Neither side has given numbers for military deaths and injured, while both claim to have inflicted huge losses.

In August 2023, The New York Times quoted US officials as putting Ukraine's military losses at 70,000 dead and 100,000 to 120,000 injured.

Leaked US intelligence in December indicated that 315,000 Russian troops had been killed or wounded.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Moscow's forces in occupied Ukraine, the army said on Saturday, telling them "in terms of the ratio of forces, the advantage is on our side".

Moscow has massively ramped up its arms production and received drones from Iran, while Kyiv says it has confirmed Russia's use of North Korean missiles.

The conflict has thrown Russia into even greater isolation from the West, with the United States and its allies imposing a slew of sanctions.

US President Joe Biden announced yet more sanctions against Russia Friday to stop Putin's "war machine".

The G7 on Saturday pledged it would "continue to raise the cost of Russia's war", called on Iran to stop assisting Moscow's invasion and expressed "concern" over the export of goods that can be used for weapons or military equipment from China to Russia.

At home, the Kremlin has used the war to rally patriotism and mount an even harsher crackdown on dissent.

Several people were detained on Saturday at a protest in Moscow by wives of mobilised soldiers asking for their loved ones to come home, according to independent media.

But on Moscow streets, most people told AFP they backed the war.

 

"They are doing great, they are out there fighting for our country."

One of the few to give an alternative opinion was Konstantin, a drama teacher, who said: "I'm against any war. Two years have passed and it annoys me that people can't talk to each other and are still at war."

P.Anderson--BTB