Ukraine’s president Zelensky issues rousing rallying cry to his people as he meets world leaders on second anniversary of Russian invasion

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky promised victory today in a defiant rallying cry against Russian aggression on the second anniversary of Putin’s brutal invasion.

‘We will win,’ he said unequivocally at a ceremony at Hostomel Airport, the site of the first major battle of the war which saw the Ukrainian resistance decisively turn back the foreign invaders after a month of bitter fighting as they rushed to besiege the capital.

‘It can be said in one sentence,’ said Zelensky in a video ahead of a summit with world leaders today. ‘Two years ago, we met hostile landing with fire here. Two years later, we welcome our friends and partners here.’

The president was pictured alongside the Canadian, Italian and Belgian prime ministers and EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen who came to Kyiv to mark the date, embracing as they arrived on the tarmac.

‘This is symbolic,’ he said. ‘And it eloquently describes the path we have traveled over these two years and the difference between February 24 then and now.’

‘Involuntarily, today every Ukrainian remembers that day. And each of us has their own February 24, a unique memory of that day. How you woke up, who first wrote to you and asked, “How are you?”… And most importantly, what you did next.’

President Zelensky records a video at Hostomel Airport on Saturday 24 February, 2024
Hostomel Airport was the site of the first major battle of the invasion on February 24, 2022
Zelensky promised victory at the site of the Battle of Hostomel in an address on February 24
Volodymyr Zelensky stands with Ursula von der Leyen and Alexander De Croo at Hostomel

The Ukrainian president invited world leaders and media to the meeting at the site of the battle
G7 leader Meloni embraces Canadian PM Justin Trudeau in Hostomel as Zelensky looks on

Stood in front of the ruins of planes destroyed in the now legendary Battle for Hostomel, Zelensky continued: ‘It’s the choice made by Ukrainians of different ages, professions and regions. 

‘And it’s what brought people together: first in lines at the military enlistment office, and then in a trench on the front line to defend the country. And all those who stayed to work in the country, who left the country, and who then returned.

READ MORE: After two years of war… is Putin WINNING? Ukraine is losing territory and out of ammo, the world is focused on Israel, Russia’s economy is growing and US aid is drying up. On the second anniversary of invasion, a brutally honest assessment 

‘And so it’s been for two years. We have become 730 days closer to victory. Some are waiting for a prophet to tell them when it will come, but millions of Ukrainians simply remember the words of Kobzar: “Keep fighting: you are sure to win!”

The Kobzar is a book of poems by Ukrainian poet and painter Taras Shevchenko.

‘Today, each of us will call our families to hear loved ones’ voices, to wish each other what we’ve been waiting for. And today, unfortunately, each of us has someone to mourn. And to honour their memory, together, we bow our heads.

‘730 days of pain. But at the same time 730 days of hope for the highest justice.’

The war in Ukraine enters its third year with Russia in ascendancy as the defenders battle exhaustion and struggle to replenish stockpiles of vital air defences needed to repel the invasion.

Heavy casualties on the front lines have been compounded by dreadful conditions on the eastern front, with frozen soil turning into thick mud in unseasonably warm temperatures, playing havoc with soldiers’ health.

Neither side has given numbers for military deaths and injured, while both claim to have inflicted huge losses.

In August 2023, The New York Times quoted US officials as putting Ukraine’s military losses at 70,000 dead and 100,000 to 120,000 injured.

Leaked US intelligence in December indicated that 315,000 Russian troops had been killed or wounded.

Moscow has made small gains in recent months and claimed a major victory last weekend when it took control of Avdiivka in the hotly contested eastern Donetsk region. 

A spokesperson for 3rd Separate Assault Brigade, one of the units that tried to hold the town, said the defenders were outnumbered seven to one. 

A soldier serving in a GRAD rocket artillery unit said that his launcher, which uses Soviet-designed ammunition held by few of Ukraine’s allies, was now operating at about 30% of maximum capacity.

‘It became like this recently,’ he said. ‘There aren’t as many foreign munitions.’

Artillery shells are also in short supply as a result of Western countries’ inability to keep up the pace of shipments for a drawn-out war.

UNITED24, Zelensky’s official fundraiser, announced this week it was appealing for help raising money for ‘gamechanging’ Sea Baby drones for the Security Service of Ukraine, which previously saw action in the destruction of the Kerch Strait Bridge in Crimea.

A spokesperson for UNITED24 told MailOnline today they had raised funds for 36 devices, each worth $250,000, in 36 hours, only possible with help from donors ‘all over the world’.

‘Naval drones are a constant need. Since February 24, Russia has fired over 4,500 missiles at Ukraine, with 20% launched from the sea. After losing 80% of its fleet in 2014 due to Crimea’s occupation, Ukraine had no means to counter these attacks.

‘However, on October 29, 2022, naval drones marked a turning point by damaging three russian vessels, including the flagship Admiral Makarov, in a historic first attack carried out exclusively by unmanned vessels.’

They said the small and fast unmanned surface vehicles had ‘quickly changed the course of naval warfare’ and allowed Ukraine to ‘bury… Russian arrogance’.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a presentation in Kazan, February 22, 2024
Russia continues to occupy regions in east and south Ukraine, as well as Crimea
Demonstrators take part in a rally in support of Ukraine, to mark the second year of Russia’s military invasion on Ukraine, at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on February 24, 2024
European countries are struggling to find enough weapons and ammunition to send to Kyiv. Pictured: a rally in Berlin on February 24, 2024
People gather at the city downtown to show their support to Ukraine, after two years of ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine during its second anniversary on February 24, 2024
Demonstrators wearing helmets from Japanese leftist groups Chukaku and Zengakuren protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in Tokyo, Japan, 24 February 2024
People wear Ukrainian flags as they attend a peace march on the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the Main Market Square in Krakow, Poland, 24 February 2024
People wear Ukrainian flags as they attend a peace march on the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the Main Market Square in Krakow, Poland, 24 February 2024
People carry placards as they attend a demonstration in support of Ukraine in front of the Russian Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark, 24 February 2024
Demonstrators take part in a rally in support of Ukraine, to mark the second year of Russia’s military invasion on Ukraine, in front of the Russian Embassy in Copenhagen on February 24

On top of the U.S. supply pause, the EU has conceded it will miss its target to supply a million shells to Ukraine by March by nearly half. 

Still, morale remains high among Ukraine’s armed forces, volunteers and civilians, who remain defiant in the face of a larger and better supplied enemy.

As the United States prepares to pass a $95bn aid package with $61bn set aside for Ukraine, the UK pledged to invest £245 million in producing artillery shells for Ukraine and £8.5 million in humanitarian funding as the conflict enters its third year.

BORIS JOHNSON: Two years after his monstrous invasion, it’s time to seize the $300billion of Putin’s assets frozen overseas – and hand it to heroic Ukraine

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who visited Kyiv last month to sign a new security agreement and announce an increase in military funding for the country, said on Friday: ‘When (Russian President Vladimir) Putin launched his illegal invasion two years ago, the free world was united in its response.

‘We stood together behind Ukraine. And on this grim anniversary, we must renew our determination.

‘I was in Kyiv just a few weeks ago and I met wounded Ukrainian soldiers. Each harrowing story was a reminder of Ukraine’s courage in the face of terrible suffering.

‘It was a reminder of the price they are paying not only to defend their country against a completely unjustified invasion, but also to defend the very principles of freedom, sovereignty and the rule of law on which we all depend.’

He added: ‘This is the moment to show that tyranny will never triumph and to say once again that we will stand with Ukraine today and tomorrow.

‘We are prepared to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, until they prevail.’

About 14.6 million people, or 40% of Ukraine’s population, need assistance, with many left homeless or without adequate access to food, water and electricity, Britain’s Foreign Office said in announcing the aid package. 

On Thursday, Denmark also announced a new $247.4mn (£195mn) military aid package for Ukraine, appealing to allies to step up donations to help the country overcome Russian aggression.

But European countries are struggling to find enough weapons and ammunition to send to Kyiv, and US help worth 60 billion dollars (£47 billon) is stalled over political differences in Washington. 

Italy, which holds the rotating presidency of the Group of Seven leading economies, announced that the G7 would meet virtually on Saturday with Zelenskyy and would adopt a joint statement on Ukraine, discussing – among other things – the prospect of new sanctions on Russia.

‘More than ever we stand firmly by Ukraine. Financially, economically, militarily, morally. Until the country is finally free,’ von der Leyen added in a post expressing solidarity on X, formerly Twitter.

A Ukrainian serviceman from the 108th Brigade of Territorial Defence prepares a Ukraine-made multi-purpose drone Leleka-100 on a field near a frontline in the direction of Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, 15 February 2024
Ukrainian servicemen from the 108th Brigade of Territorial Defence prepare to fly a Ukraine-made multi-purpose drone Leleka-100 on a field near a frontline in the direction of Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, 15 February 2024
A Ukrainian soldier fires towards the Russian position on the frontlines in the direction of Avdiivka. The city was lost to Russia in the final days of the war’s second year – the first major Russian victory since Moscow’s forces captured Bakhmut last year
Ukrainian gunner Vasyl Zozulia removes a smoking shell casing after firing a round towards Russian positions near Lyman
Ukrainian gunner Vasyl Zozulia fires the gun, as soldiers of the Ukraine Armys 95th Brigade fire 105mm artillery shells from a British-made L119 howitzer at Russian positions in the Lyman direction on February 18, 2024

Today’s meeting in Kyiv Oblast came as Ukraine shot down a Russian £260mn A-50U reconnaissance aircraft over Krasnodar, Russia.

Video showed huge plumes of smoke billowing from the wreckage after the A-50U reconnaissance plane’s wing was reportedly torn off by a hit from a revamped S-200 Soviet-era long-range air defence missile – a staggering blow to Russia’s already diminishing collection.

Ten crew were reported to have been found dead at the crash site in Russia’s Krasnodar region, where the dictator’s official Black Sea residence and private £1 billion place are located. The eventual toll is likely to be higher.

Separately, a Ukrainian kamikaze drone attack is believed to be responsible for three thunderous explosions and a massive fire at Russia’s largest steel producer NLMK in Lipetsk, which produces 18 per cent of Russia’s steel.

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