Russia Celebrates Ukraine Anniversary With Threat to Invade Another Country

·3 min read
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service via Reuters
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service via Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday marked the first anniversary of a full-scale invasion of his country with a stirring message of mourning, defiance, and hope.

“On February 24, millions of us made a choice,” Zelensky tweeted. “Not a white flag, but the blue and yellow one. Not fleeing, but facing. Resisting and fighting.” His words were accompanied by a video showing Ukrainians weeping with their loved ones, sheltering from explosions, and fighting on the battlefield. “It was a year of pain, sorrow, faith, and unity,” he added. “And this year we remained invincible. We know that 2023 will be the year of our victory!”

In Moscow, there were no major public events planned to mark the grim milestone in the war on Friday. Earlier in the week, President Vladimir Putin briefly appeared at a concert rally at Russia’s biggest stadium where images of the mayhem in Ukraine were played on giant screens to a cheering crowd as pop stars performed. Firework displays lit up the skies over Russia on Thursday to mark its Defender of the Fatherland Day.

Zelensky’s message of victory in 2023 was mirrored by former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who on Friday insisted that “victory will be achieved” for Russia. “We all want it to happen as soon as possible. And that day will come,” Medvedev, who is now deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, wrote on his Telegram account.

Alarmingly, Medvedev argued that a deal will eventually have to be negotiated to end the bloodshed, but that such an agreement won’t have “fundamental agreements on real borders.”

“That is why it is so important to achieve all the goals of the special military operation,” Medvedev added, using the Kremlin’s preferred euphemism for the war. “To push back the borders that threaten our country as far as possible, even if they are the borders of Poland.”

Any attack on Poland’s borders would put Russia into direct conflict with NATO. In Poland this week, Joe Biden vowed to “defend literally every inch of NATO.” Medvedev’s threat to Poland comes after Russian intelligence claimed this week that Ukraine is preparing a false-flag attack on Moldova, in which Kyiv’s forces would dress in Russian fatigues during a fake invasion.

It’s not clear how many have been killed in the war in Ukraine so far, though Russia’s independent Conflict Investigation Team suggested earlier this month that between 130,000 and 270,000 Russians had been killed or wounded in the fighting. The Norwegian military in January claimed Ukraine may have suffered as many as 100,000 military casualties of its own, along with 30,000 civilian deaths.

Zelensky’s message was echoed across the world with international displays of solidarity. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz released his own video message condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “relentless war of aggression.” Landmarks including the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Sydney Opera House were illuminated with the colors of the Ukrainian flag on Wednesday night.

The symbolic displays of unity were coupled with a concrete statement of support from the U.N. which overwhelmingly voted on Thursday in favor of a resolution demanding that Russian forces leave Ukrainian territory. Some 141 nations backed the non-binding resolution while 32 countries—among them India and China—abstained. Just seven countries, including Russia and its allies Belarus and North Korea, voted against.

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