On the eve of the anniversary of Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s president said his country will prevail. Meanwhile, the UN General Assembly will vote on a measure calling for an end to the war. DW rounds up the latest.
Ukraine will prevail over invading Russian forces, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Thursday, a day before the first anniversary of Moscow’s assault on his country.
“We have not broken down, we have overcome many ordeals, and we will win,” Zelenskyy said on social media. “We will hold to account all those who brought this evil, this war to our land.”
The Ukrainian president posted several photos depicting tragic events in Ukraine. “Dozens, hundreds of thousands of photos that leave deep scars in your heart and soul. They remind us of the path we have gone from February to February. It must be in our DNA,” he said.
Zelenskyy also wrote that Russia has chosen the path of “the murderer, the terrorist, the torturer, the looter.”
“This is the state choice of Russia, and there will be state responsibility for the terror committed,” he added.
Russia launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The year-long conflict has devastated swathes of Ukraine, turned Russia into a pariah in the West and, according to Western sources, has caused 150,000 casualties on each side.
Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war in Ukraine on Thursday, February 23:
UN assembly to vote on resolution calling for end to Ukraine war
Nearly one year after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the United Nations General Assembly is set to vote on a resolution calling for peace and Moscow’s withdrawal from its neighbor’s territory. The assembly is expected to overwhelmingly adopt the resolution, tabled by over 50 countries.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock canvassed support for the resolution before departing for New York to address the gathering. “The peace plan is on the table in New York, it is the United Nations Charter,” Baerbock said.
The resolution would contain the necessary, concrete steps towards peace in Ukraine, Baerbock said. She specified a halt in Russian attacks, the protection of civilians, respect for the territorial integrity of Ukraine, Russian troop withdrawal, as well as accountability for the crimes committed.
The vote on the resolution is scheduled for later Thursday after dozens of speeches by high-level speakers, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. Ukraine’s Western backers hope to get as many countries as possible to vote “yes” to a general motion in support of peace.
EU Commission wants to extend duty-free period for Ukrainian exports
Customs duties on imports from Ukraine are to be suspended for another year, according to a proposal by the European Commission.
However, in order to prevent a negative impact on farmers from the EU, a new protection mechanism is planned, the Commission said. In case of doubt, certain duties can be quickly reintroduced, it said.
EU countries such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia had recently complained that significantly more fodder and food was coming into their countries because of the exemption from customs duties. This could cause serious difficulties for EU producers, they said.
The relief for Ukraine was introduced in the middle of last year in response to Russia’s full-scale invasion. It was intended to strengthen Ukraine’s war-weakened economy and, according to the European Commission, will be extended until mid-2024. The European Parliament and EU member states still have to agree to the measure.
Zelenskyy has seen no Chinese peace plan but would welcome meeting
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he had not seen a Chinese peace initiative, but added that he would welcome a meeting between Ukraine and China.
“I know general things. I have not seen the document. It is too early to make a diagnosis of this document. In general, it is very good that China has started to talk about Ukraine. These are the first steps and it is not bad,” he said during a news briefing in Kyiv with visiting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
“We will draw conclusions when we see the specifics,” Zelenskyy said and added that Ukraine would like to meet with China. “We sent this signal at the level of diplomats.”
China has said it will set out its position on how to settle the war in Ukraine through political means in an upcoming paper, which is expected to be published on the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Germany wants to close Russia’s sanctions loopholes
Germany will propose measures to close loopholes in EU sanctions against Moscow that are letting embargoed goods flow into Russia and feed its “war machine,” the German Economy Ministry said.
Berlin will push for the action to be a key part of an 11th EU sanctions package targeting Moscow following a 10th round to be announced on Friday, the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Export data has shown that embargoed goods are still arriving in Russia through third-party states despite the sanctions, the ministry said.
Under its proposal, companies would have to submit declaration forms detailing the end use of exports to third-party nations of goods that are key for the “Russian war machine.”
Berlin also wants companies or individuals to themselves land on a sanctions list if they aid Moscow to circumvent embargoes.
“Foreign trade data available to us indicate that a considerable amount of EU sanctioned goods are exported from the EU, and therefore also from Germany to certain third countries, and then from there further exported to Russia,” the ministry said in the proposal.
“Even if we don’t have all the data, we must together counter these circumventing activities in a more effective way than before — on the national and EU levels,” it said.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck noted that in some countries, the number of items like trucks or pickups imported from Europe has been stable for years, but “all of a sudden it goes steeply upwards with the start of the war.”
Italy calls for G7 sanctions against Russia to be extended to G20 countries
Sanctions introduced by G7 nations against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine should be applied by all G20 countries, Italy’s Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti said.
The sanctions “must be applied not only by the G7 countries but also by the G20 countries,” Giorgetti said in a statement issued ahead of a meeting of G20 finance leaders in Bengaluru.
“Otherwise Russia circumvents the sanctions system and the effects risk falling short of our expectations,” the minister added.
A senior US official said last week that the United States and its G7 allies planned to unveil “a big new package of sanctions” around the February 24 anniversary, including measures to crack down on the evasion of existing sanctions.
Majority of EU citizens agree with Ukraine course — survey
The majority of EU citizens are satisfied with the measures taken by the European Union against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to a Eurobarometer survey.
Around a year after the start of the war, 56% of those surveyed said they agree with the EU course, according to the survey. The survey found 91% of respondents in favor of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and 88% support taking in war refugees.
65 percent of the respondents support the delivery of military equipment. However, 80 percent also demand that EU countries should coordinate better when buying weapons. 77 percent want a common European defense and security policy.
More than 26,000 people were interviewed for the survey from mid-January to early February.
G7 urges IMF to deliver Ukraine funding package by end-March
Group of Seven (G7) finance ministers urged the International Monetary Fund to deliver a new aid package to Ukraine by the end of March, according to a statement.
“(We) urge the IMF and Ukraine to deliver a credible, ambitious, fully financed and appropriately conditioned IMF program by the end of March 2023,” the G7 statement said in a statement released after a meeting in India.
Additional financial support for Ukraine is needed and the International Monetary Fund is working in a new support program, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said.
EU unveils ‘game changer’ data center to probe Ukraine crimes
The EU’s judicial cooperation agency, Eurojust, unveiled what it said was a “game changing” data center to collect and analyze evidence of crimes in Ukraine, invaded by Russia a year ago.
“We expect this database to be fully operational by summer this year,” Eurojust President Ladislav Hamran said. “This database is a real game changer in the prosecution of core international crimes.”
The center will gather, store and analyze any evidence presented by prosecutors of EU member states and other countries represented at the agency, including Britain and the United States. Digital evidence that can be submitted for storage includes pictures, video recordings, satellite and drone images and witness statements.
This will allow prosecutors to “not only shed light on individual offences, but also on the systemic actions behind it” and “lead to more and faster national investigations,” Hamran said.
The data center will work in tandem with a new office at Eurojust to prosecute crimes in Ukraine.
Ukraine imposes 50-year sanctions on Russian financial sector
Ukraine’s parliament imposed sweeping 50-year sanctions on Russian financial institutions, including the central bank, all commercial banks, investment funds, insurers and other enterprises.
“It is a complete block on financial institutions of the Russian Federation accessing markets and assets in Ukraine. A complete block,” Andriy Pyshniy, governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, said on Facebook.
“We should weaken it with all available means. It is the financial sector which is a strategic ‘donor’ of this war,” he added.
Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said the sectoral sanctions would affect hundreds of banks and tens of thousands of financial institutions registered in Russia.
The measures include a ban on transactions with assets owned by the Russian Federation’s financial institutions, a ban on establishing business relations and a ban on transactions and investments in Russian financial institutions, Svyrydenko said.
Ukraine has convicted 26 war crimes suspects since invasion
Ukrainian courts have tried and convicted 26 low-ranking suspects since the Russian invasion a year ago and have brought charges against nearly 300 individuals, according to a Ukrainian official.
Ukraine’s prosecutor coordinating war crimes cases in The Hague, Myroslava Krasnoborova, said the convictions were for crimes including rape and murder, the shelling of residential buildings, cruel treatment of civilians and pillaging.
So far, Ukraine has registered more than 71,000 alleged war crimes since February 24, 2022, she said. A total of 296 individuals have so far been charged with war crimes, with 99 cases currently being handled by Ukrainian courts, Krasnoborova added.
No arrest warrants have yet been issued in public by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which began investigating possible war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Ukraine a year ago.
Finland to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, Sweden ‘open’ to do the same
The Finnish Defense Ministry said Helsinki will send three Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine.
“We will send more defense materiel and participate in the Leopard cooperation together with our partners,” Finnish Defense Minister Mikko Savola said in a statement.
The aid package will also include “training related to their use and maintenance,” the statement added.
Separately, Sweden’s Defense Minister Pal Jonson told local news agency TT that the Nordic country is preparing to present another aid package to help Ukraine.
Jonson said Sweden’s main contribution in terms of ground warfare equipment will be armored infantry fighting vehicles, which will be included in the new package.
As support in the Swedish parliament grows to contribute with some of the country’s 120 German-made Leopard tanks, Jonson said: “We are open to that and we are in close dialogue with above all Germany about it.”
US says sanctions have ‘very’ significant effect on Russia
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said ahead of a G20 meeting in India that sanctions have had a negative impact on Russia.
“The way I see it, our sanctions have had a very significant negative effect on Russia so far. While by some measures the Russian economy has held up better than might initially have been expected, Russia is now running a significant budget deficit,” she said.
Yellen told reporters that Moscow was “finding it extremely difficult” to get the material it needed to replenish its munitions and repair 9,000 tanks that were destroyed in the war.
“Russia is running down its holdings in its sovereign wealth fund so… the price cap that we have put on Russian oil is clearly substantially reducing Russia’s revenues,” she said.
Yellen also announced additional substantial economic assistance for Ukraine. “In the coming months, we (US) expect to provide about $10 billion (€9.4 billion) in additional economic assistance for Ukraine,” she said.
Sanctions against Russia have proved to be challenging for the Russian economy, but it has performed far better than expected.
Although the Kremlin made a lot of key economic data classified after it launched the war on Ukraine, the collapse many predicted has seemingly not materialized.
Russia’s official statistics agency has said the economy had contracted by 2.1% in 2022, having predicted a contraction of 12%.
UK: Russia could be preparing for offensive in Vuhledar
The British Defense Ministry said in its regular intelligence update that Russian forces were likely preparing to attack the Donetsk town of Vuhledar, in eastern Ukraine.
The report said the town has experienced heavy shelling recently, noting that Russia suffered “costly failed attacks” in the area in early February and late 2022.
It added that the Russian commander who is likely responsible for the Vuhledar operation, Colonel General Rustam Muradov, “is likely under intense pressure to improve results following harsh criticism from the Russian nationalist community after previous setbacks.
“However, it is unlikely that Muradov has a striking force capable of achieving a breakthrough.”
After row with Russian army, Wagner says to receive ammunition
Yevgeny Prigozhin, who leads the Wagner Group of mercenaries, said that his fighters were set to receive additional supplies of ammunition
“Today at 6 a.m., it was announced that the shipment of ammunition has started,” Prigozhin said in a statement on Telegram.
“Most likely, the ball is now rolling. So far, it’s all on paper, but, as we were told, the principal documents have already been signed.”
Earlier this week, Prigozhin had accused Russia’s defense minister of “treason,” claiming that the military bosses had denied Wagner ammunition out of personal spite to him.
But on Thursday, he wrote: “Many thanks to those who acted various ways — to those ordinary citizens who did everything they could, and to those, including those in high offices, who exerted pressure and made decisions … so that they began to give us ammunition.”
Putin vows to develop Russian nuclear forces
Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed Thursday to develop Moscow’s nuclear forces further.
Putin’s remarks were issued by the Kremlin to mark Thursday’s Defender of the Fatherland public holiday. They came two days after he announced that Russia would suspend its participation in a key nuclear disarmament treaty.
“As before, we will pay increased attention to strengthening the nuclear triad,” Putin said, referring to nuclear missiles on land, sea and air.
He added that the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles, which are able to carry multiple nuclear warheads, would be deployed this year. A CNN report had cited US officials as saying the Sarmat had seemingly failed a test this week.
“We will continue mass production of air-based hypersonic Kinzhal systems and will start mass supplies of sea-based Zircon hypersonic missiles,” Putin said.
“A modern, efficient army and navy are a guarantee of the country’s security and sovereignty, a guarantee of its stable development and its future.”
On Tuesday, Putin suspended the New START pact with the US, as he accused Ukraine’s Western allies of turning the war into a global conflict by arming Kyiv.
US President Joe Biden called the move a “big mistake,” and Ukrainian officials decried Russia’s “nuclear terrorism.”
Spanish PM visits Kyiv
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has arrived in the Ukrainian capital in a show of support before of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“Returning to Kyiv today, one year since the start of the war,” Sanchez tweeted with a video of him stepping off the train in Kyiv. “We will stand with Ukraine and its people until peace returns to Europe,” he wrote in Spanish and Ukrainian.
Sanchez is due to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles had confirmed a day earlier that Madrid would deliver six of its German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine.
Moldova denies Russian claims Ukraine is trying to invade Transnistria
Moscow has accused Kyiv of planning to invade Transnistria, a Moldovan breakaway region bordering Ukraine. The Moldovan government denied the claims via its Telegram channel and urged its citizens to remain calm.
Russian media quoted Russia’s Defense Ministry as saying that Ukraine would try to carry out an armed operation “under a false flag” in Transnistria in the near future.
The ministry also claimed that the Ukrainian Azov Regiment was planning to use a pretext for the invasion by on staging an by alleged Russian forces.
Moscow did not provide any evidence backing its allegations but said it was ready to respond to any change on the border between Ukraine and Transnistria.
Russian troops have been stationed in Transnistria since the 1990s.
Moldova accused Russia in December of planning to invade its territory. Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, recently warned that Moldova could meet the same fate as Ukraine.
OSCE meets amid protests over Russians attending
Lawmakers from member countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are holding a two-day meeting that is set to focus on the war in Ukraine.
The gathering of around 300 parliamentarians comes as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters one year.
Ukraine and Lithuania are boycotting the meetings to protest the attendance of Russian delegates.
The Russian delegation is headed by Pyotr Tolstoy, deputy chairman of the Russian parliament’s lower house, who is under international sanctions. It is the first time Tolstoy and another sanctioned parliamentarian have travelled to an EU country since the invasion.
“The Russian war of aggression in Ukraine has endangered security in Europe and Russia is violating all OSCE principles,” parliamentary assembly chair Margareta Cederfelt said at the start of the session.
“I do sympathize with the fact that some members find it unbearable to sit in the same room as the aggressors,” Cederfelt said. “But for those present today, this is your opportunity to stand up for Ukraine and to confront the lies from the aggressors.”
A Slovak delegate read out a statement from the Ukrainian delegation, which said that “the presence of these warmongers in Vienna is an affront to everything that the OSCE stands for.”
More on the war in Ukraine
Yevgeny Prigozhin has admitted to leading the Wagner Group of mercenaries and a massive internet troll farm. But is he a threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin, or is he just doing what the Kremlin leader wants?
For a year now, weapons have not stood still in Ukraine and thousands have been killed. With campaigns becoming more sophisticated and spreading through numerous channels, DW takes a look at how disinformation has changed in the past 12 months, on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides. Watch the full report below.
fb/rt (AFP, Reuters, dpa, Interfax)