Western leaders in Kyiv pledge support for Ukraine

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STORY: (Von der Leyen) "Today, we're here to tell you that Europe will continue to stand at your side."

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen vowed on Saturday (February 24) that Europe would back Ukraine.

Von der Leyen and the prime ministers of Italy, Canada and Belgium arrived in Kyiv to show solidarity on the second anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion.

They joined Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the Hostomel airfield.

It was the site of a ferocious battle at the start of the invasion as Russia tried to fly in paratroopers to seize the capital Kyiv just a few miles away.

"There will be a free and sovereign Ukraine. There will be peace and prosperity. And there will be Europe. And the battle of Hostomel airport will no longer be remembered as the darkest hour of our history, but as the beginning of a new era for Ukraine and for all of Europe. Slava Ukraini."

Zelenskiy embraced the Western leaders and delivered a televised speech.

He said "the word 'independent' will always stand next to the word 'Ukraine' in future history."

Zelenskiy also warned in the past that Russian President Vladimir Putin may not stop at Ukraine's borders if he emerges victorious.

Putin dismisses such claims, and casts the war as a wider struggle with the United States, which he says aims to dismantle Russia.

While Italy and Canada signed a bilateral security agreement with Ukraine, $61 billion in aid promised by U.S. President Joe Biden is being blocked by Republicans in Congress.

It casts a long shadow over Kyiv's hopes of pushing back the Russian army.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, the war continues.

Russian drones attacked the port of Odesa for the second night running on Friday (February 23).

Video footage released by the National Police of Ukraine and the State Emergency Service of Ukraine showed rescue teams picking their way through rubble.

Meanwhile, a source in Kyiv said Ukrainian drones had caused a blaze at a Russian steel plant which a Russian official identified as one in the city of Lipetsk.

The plant is responsible for about 18% of Russian output.

Anniversary events were planned across Ukraine on Saturday (February 24), including this service to commemorate those who died in Bucha, the site of some of the worst alleged war crimes of the conflict.

And in Lviv, mourners visited the graves of their loved ones who died during the war.

This mother of two lost her husband. She said they are paying a very high price but she believes "that the victory will be ours."