Zelensky's message on Ukraine war anniversary: 'we will defeat everyone'

The Ukrainian president marks the first anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion with a sombre message of defiance to his people

Olena HarmashReuters
Published : 24 Feb 2023, 07:31 AM
Updated : 24 Feb 2023, 07:31 AM

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky marked the first anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion on Friday with a sombre message of defiance to his people, saying "we will defeat everyone".

In a video released to the media and titled "the year of invincibility", the 45-year-old sat at a desk and recalled how he addressed Ukrainians a year ago in a hurried statement, as Kyiv and the world reeled from Russia's act of war.

"A year ago on this day, from this same place around seven in the morning, I addressed you with a brief statement, lasting only 67 seconds," he said in a 15-minute speech, as solemn music played in the background.

"...we are strong. We are ready for anything. We will defeat everyone. This is how it began on Feb 24, 2022. The longest day of our lives. The most difficult day in our recent history. We woke up early and haven't slept since."

Western military officials estimate casualties on both sides of the largest conflict in Europe since World War Two at more than 100,000 killed or wounded. Tens of thousands of civilians also died, while millions more have fled the threat of fighting.

"Almost everyone has at least one contact in their phone that will never pick up the phone again," Zelenskiy said. "He who will not respond to the SMS 'How are you?'. These two simple words got a new meaning during the year of the war."

Ukrainian forces prevented a swift victory early in 2022, and the conflict, which Moscow calls a "special military operation", has become one of grinding trench warfare in the east and south.

With leaders of both countries showing no signs of backing down, the prospects of an end to the fighting any time soon look bleak.

Zelenskiy, who has been instrumental in garnering financial and military aid from around the world to sustain Ukrainian defences in the face of a much larger army, praised his people.

"We became one big army," he said. "We have become a team where someone finds, someone packs, someone brings, but everyone contributes."

He described 2022 as a year of resilience, courage, pain, and unity.

"Its main conclusion is that we have survived. We had not been defeated. And we will do everything to win this year!"