Ukraine is '730 days closer to victory', Zelenskyy says as country marks two years of war

People stand at the memorial site for those killed during the war, near Maidan Square in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 24, 2024.
People stand at the memorial site for those killed during the war, near Maidan Square in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 24, 2024. Copyright AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
Copyright AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
By Méabh Mc Mahon in Kyiv, Alice Tidey in Brussels
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Saturday marks the second anniversary of the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine with several EU leaders including Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen travelling to Kyiv to express support.

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Ursula von der Leyen, Belgium's Alexander de Croo, Italy's Giorgia Meloni, and Canada's Justin Trudeau arrived in Kyiv on Saturday morning as the country marks two years of war with Russia.

The European Commission chief said ahead of her arrival that the trip to the war-torn country, her seventh since Russia first rolled its tanks into Ukraine on February 24, 2022, is "to celebrate the extraordinary resistance of the brave Ukrainian people" and give "moral support" to Ukrainians.

De Croo is there as the leader of the country holding the rotating six-month presidency of the Council of the EU, Giorgia Meloni as the current chair of the G7, and Trudeau as a NATO representative. 

G7 countries - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States - will meet virtually this afternoon with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expected to join.

'For as long as it takes'

During a ceremony at Hostomel airport, an airfield about 20km away from Kyiv which was the scene of the first major battle between Russian and Ukrainian forces on February 24, 2022, von der Leyen praised Ukrainian resistance and said "we are here to tell you that Europe will continue to stand at your side, for as long as it takes."

"With more financial support, more ammunition, more training for your troops, more air defences, and more investments in Europe's and Ukraine's defence industries."

"There will be victory for Ukraine. There will be peace and prosperity. And there will be Europe," she added.

Zelenskyy, meanwhile, told his citizens that the country is "730 days closer to victory".

"Any normal person wants the war to end. But none of us will allow our Ukraine to end. That's why when it comes to ending the war, we always add – on our terms. That's why next to the word "peace," the word "just" always sounds. That's why in future history, next to the word Ukraine, the word "independent" will always stand," he added.

'Everyone has lost something'

In the Ukrainian capital, the mood was subdued on Saturday morning as locals relive the horrors of that day when the worst scenario came true.

"It is strange to call it an anniversary. Anniversaries are for celebrating something nice," one young girl told Euronews' Meabh McMahon on Saturday morning in Kyiv.

"There is war but locals are finding ways to cope. Everyone is damaged, everyone has lost something." A Kyiv-based Ukrainian official also said after what he described as a "heavy night in Kyiv."

People, he added, go to the cinema hoping they will be able to watch a full movie and not be interrupted by an alarm warning of incoming Russian strikes. Children, who often cannot physically attend school because most lack shelters against drones and missiles, play in the streets.

Kyiv residents appear to be going about their daily lives amidst the sirens and shocks yet the country's allies have to fight accusations of war fatigue.

Allies struggle to swiftly approve support

Both the EU and the US have this week announced new sanctions against Russia. The 13th package from Brussels targets companies from third countries including China, India, and Turkey, that allow Russia to circumvent Western sanctions and get hold of forbidden items.

Washington will, meanwhile, impose 500 new sanctions on Russia for its ongoing invasion and the death last week in a penal colony of the country's fiercest Kremlin critic, Alexei Navalny.

But it took EU leaders several weeks to approve a €50 billion package of support to Ukraine that will allow the government to continue financing some essential services over the next four years. And discussions over a special EU fund to ramp up deliveries of weapons to Ukraine are still very much ongoing.

In the US, a package of assistance worth about €55 billion has been stuck in Congress for weeks.

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This is despite Ukraine warning it is suffering from a critical shortage of weapons that is allowing Russia to adapt and set the pace with the recent fall of Avdiivka one consequence of this.

'More support is on the way'

In a video statement posted on Saturday on X, formerly Twitter, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg stressed that "the situation on the battlefield remains extremely serious" and that "there are no indications" that Russian President Vladimir Putin "is preparing for peace".

"More support is on the way," he promised, adding: "Ukraine will join NATO. It is not a question of if, but when."

Over the past few weeks, Zelenskyy has signed bilateral security agreements with the UK, Germany and France.

The Elysée Palace said on Saturday that as part of the deal, "France is committed to providing up to €3 billion in additional military aid for Ukraine in 2024." The UK, meanwhile also announced that it will spend a further £245 million (€286 million) over the next year to "procure and invigorate supply chains to produce urgently needed artillery ammunition to boost Ukraine’s reserves."

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