World leaders gather in Ukraine for anniversary of war as Zelenskyy vows 'we will win'

Nations pledge to support Kyiv as ceremony takes place at Hostomel airport

From left, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv. EPA
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World leaders promised to stand by Ukraine until it is “finally free” as they gathered in Kyiv on Saturday for an event marking the second anniversary of the war with Russia.

On Saturday, G7 leaders pledged ongoing support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, committing to find ways to hold Moscow accountable for damages caused by its invasion.

"As Ukraine enters the third year of this relentless war, its government and its people can count on the G7’s support for as long as it takes," the G7 leaders said in a statement.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed “we will win” as he addressed an open-air ceremony at Hostomel airport, the site of a ferocious battle in the early days of the war.

He spoke alongside the Canadian, Italian and Belgian prime ministers and EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, who travelled to the Ukrainian capital by overnight train.

“More than ever we stand firmly by Ukraine. Financially, economically, militarily, morally. Until the country is finally free,” Ms von der Leyen said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“We are here today to say thanks to these men and women who on February 24 two years ago did not run away and instead fought,” Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said. “This place is a symbol of Moscow's failures, a symbol of Ukrainian pride.”

Mr Zelenskyy hugged the leaders and handed medals to soldiers during the event.

“We have been fighting for this for 730 days of our lives. We will win on the greatest day of our lives,” Mr Zelenskyy said.

“Any normal person wants the war to end. But none of us will allow Ukraine to end,” he said, stressing that the conflict must end “on our terms” with a “just” peace.

Anniversary events took place across Ukraine, including a service to commemorate those who died in Bucha, where the executions of civilians allegedly took place.

Large demonstrations were also held in several European cities in support of Ukraine and condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion.

Marking the “grim anniversary” on Saturday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on X that “life will win over death” and “light will win over darkness”.

“We will stand with Ukraine today and tomorrow, prepared to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, until they prevail,” he said in an accompanying video posted on the platform. “Slava Ukraini” [Glory to Ukraine], he added.

King Charles III praised the Ukrainian people, saying: “Theirs is true valour, in the face of indescribable aggression.”

Britain also pledged a further £245 million ($311 million) over the next year to boost Ukraine’s artillery ammunition reserves, the Ministry of Defence said on Saturday.

Ms Meloni and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were expected to sign security pacts with Mr Zelenskyy during their brief stay, in line with deals recently agreed with France and Germany worth billions of dollars.

However, $61 billion in aid promised by US President Joe Biden is being blocked by Republicans in Congress.

Mr Biden was due to take part in a video conference of fellow leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) major democracies on Saturday, with Mr Zelenskyy invited to join in.

Outside Kyiv, the war continued unabated as Russian drones attacked the port of Odesa for a second night running.

One person was killed in an attack on a residential building, the regional governor said.

In Dnipro, a Russian drone hit an apartment building and a rescue operation uncovered two dead.

Meanwhile, a source in Kyiv said Ukrainian drones had caused a blaze at a Russian steel plant that is responsible for about 18 per cent of Russian output.

Pro-Ukraine rallies across Europe

Protesters across Europe rallied in support of Ukraine, demanding more western backing for its defence against Russia.

In Berlin, demands were made for faster arms deliveries, with the city's mayor, Kai Wegner, calling for Germany to provide long-range missiles to Ukraine.

London witnessed thousands marching for greater military aid and criticising the West's hesitancy to fulfil promises.

There were protests in Paris and other French cities against Russian aggression, emphasising Ukraine's defence of European values.

More than 1,000 demonstrators gathered near the Russian embassy in the Polish capital, Warsaw.

Meanwhile, in Stockholm, protesters expressed hope for a Ukrainian victory.

Updated: February 24, 2024, 6:58 PM