- Fighting rages in the north, east and south of Ukraine
- Russia was isolated in the UN referendum calling for an end to the war
- G7 leaders to announce more support for Ukraine
- NATO chief says Russian must break cycle of aggression
- China prepares to present ‘peace plan’
KYIV, Feb 24 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s war on Friday entered a second year without an end, as a U.N. referendum called for Russia to withdraw its troops and world leaders prepared to increase aid to Ukraine and impose new sanctions on Moscow and countries that support it. War effort.
As fighting rages in Ukraine’s east and south, Russia’s allies around the world showed their support on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
The Paris Eiffel Tower lit up in blue and yellow Ukrainian flag colors, wearing Ukrainian flags, hands over hearts, and holding the banner “If you stand for freedom, stand for Ukraine” at a vigil in London.
“There will be a life after this war, because Ukraine will win,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said in her speech.
The UN General Assembly on Thursday passed a resolution calling on Russia to withdraw and stop fighting.
141 votes in favor and 32 against. Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, Mali, Nicaragua and Syria joined Russia in six abstentions.
Russia’s ally China abstained from the UN vote.
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Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyansky dismissed the UN action as “useless”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised the vote.
“This resolution is a powerful signal of declining global support for Ukraine,” he said in a post on Twitter.
Ukraine’s military has reported increased Russian activity in the east and south as the anniversary approaches, with at least 25 towns and villages in three northern regions bordering the Russian border under fire.
Reuters could not verify the battlefield reports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24 last year, seizing Kyiv and toppling a pro-European government, but those hopes have left Moscow embarrassed by serious security and military missteps.
By late 2022, Ukraine had succeeded in counteroffensives to recapture much of the lost territory. Russia now controls one-fifth of Ukraine.
The war, which Russia calls a “special military operation” to defend its sovereignty, has seen mounting casualties on both sides, particularly this year in the battle in and around the eastern city of Pakmut.
Some U.S. and Western officials estimate Russian casualties at nearly 200,000 dead and wounded, while a top U.S. general in November said 100,000 troops were killed or wounded on both sides.
Casualties could not be independently verified in what became Europe’s worst conflict since World War II.
Millions of Ukrainians have fled their country and tens of thousands of civilians have been killed. Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of war crimes, but it denies targeting civilians.
As the war has damaged the global economy and a Cold War chill has crept into international relations, Putin has raised fears of nuclear weapons and signaled a willingness to double down on the conflict despite major battlefield defeats.
With Zelensky urging Moscow to withdraw, prospects for peace look bleak.
“We don’t know when the war will end. But what we do know is that when the war ends, we must make sure that history does not repeat itself,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Reuters on Thursday.
“We must prevent Russia from eroding European security,” he said.
Support for Ukraine
US President Joe Biden will meet G7 leaders and Zelenskiy on Friday to mark the anniversary and announce new sanctions against those aiding Russia’s war effort.
White House National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan said the US would provide an additional $2 billion in aid and that the new G7 sanctions would target countries trying to replenish products denied to Russia because of the sanctions.
A meeting of G20 financial leaders near Bengaluru should condemn Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Reuters on Friday, adding that Europe was working on new sanctions against Moscow.
Speaking on the first day of the G20 meeting, Le Maire said, “Sanctions will become more efficient and more effective.”
India, the current G20 chairman, has been reluctant to discuss additional sanctions and is pushing the bloc to avoid using the word “war” to describe the year-long conflict, G20 officials told Reuters.
The United States has said China is considering supplying Russia with weapons to escalate the conflict between Russia and China, on the one hand, and between Ukraine and U.S.-led NATO on the other.
Putin on Thursday hailed “new frontiers” in relations between Moscow and Beijing and said Chinese President Xi Jinping would visit. Xi is expected to deliver a “peace speech” on Friday, although some analysts are skeptical that China’s peacemaking efforts will go beyond rhetoric.
China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday that dialogue and negotiations are the only viable way to resolve the conflict.
Ukraine and its allies say the invasion is an unjustified land grab aimed at subjugating a sovereign state.
Further raising tensions, Putin announced plans on Thursday to deploy new Sarmat multi-warhead intercontinental ballistic missiles this year. This week, he suspended Russia’s participation with the United States in the New START, or Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, on nuclear arms control.
Russia’s military focus is on seizing the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, which form an industrial region near the Russian border called the Donbass.
A series of explosions were heard Thursday near a Ukrainian tank park near Pakmut, which has become a key Russian target.
“If we give up Bakmuth, everything else becomes more complicated. We cannot give it up under any circumstances. We will stick to it,” Junior Sergeant Ole Slavin, a tank operator, told Reuters.
Reporting by Max Hunter and Dan Belezuk in Kiev; Additional reporting by Yiming Wu near Pakmut; Written by Mike Collette-White, Grant McCool and Michael Perry; Editing by Andrew Havens, Diane Croft, Himani Sarkar, and Kim Coggle
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