Ukraine war: UK falls silent on anniversary

  • By James Gregory & Paul Seddon
  • BBC News

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WATCH: Passionate Helen Mirren Reads Poetry for Ukraine

Britain will observe a minute’s silence to mark one year since Russia invaded Ukraine.

A moment of silence will be observed at 11:00 GMT on Friday to commemorate the war in which thousands of civilians and soldiers were killed and wounded.

It comes after people gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square on Thursday to hold a vigil for Ukraine.

Later, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak would later urge allies to “move faster” on arming Ukraine at the G7 meeting.

Mr Sunak will also host Ukrainian troops at a meeting in Downing Street.

Other British political leaders will also mark the anniversary of the war, with Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer calling on the UK to “double down” on support for Ukraine.

At Thursday evening’s vigil, the crowd watched an emotional reading of the Ukrainian poem Take Only What Only Is Most Important by actress Dame Helen Mirren – who was seen in tears.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace hailed the Ukrainian soldiers as “the bravest of the brave” at the event.

The conflict, which began when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 last year, has killed or wounded at least 100,000 soldiers on each side, according to the US military.

Thousands of civilians have also been killed, and more than 13 million people have been made refugees abroad or displaced within Ukraine.

Rita and her four children were among those who fled the country in the early stages of the conflict. They now live in England with Rita’s British partner Andy.

He told BBC Two’s Newsnight that he “can’t forget” the “horrible sound, that panic, that fear” when Russian troops invaded.

Rita said her heart “aches” after witnessing how parts of Ukraine have changed since 12 months of conflict.

“The country is in agony,” he said. “I know what my country is like and how it can be, I know how beautiful it is. Now it’s different [but] It may return to that beautiful place.

“I can see summer – it’s getting hot, it’s green. That’s how I see Ukraine – lots of green trees with lots of flowers … with lots of smiles and tears of joy on people’s faces.”

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After settling in England, Rita has returned to Ukraine

Ukraine has been urging its Western backers to step up support, as Russia mobilizes ahead of an expected spring offensive.

During a virtual meeting of the leaders of the G7 group of advanced economies, Mr Sunak is expected to say the acceleration in support is “what it will take to change Putin’s mindset”.

“This has to be our priority now,” he adds. “Instead of an incremental approach, we need to go faster with artillery, armor and air defense.”

He is expected to make the case for supplying Ukraine with “long-range weapons” to disrupt Russia’s ability to target Ukraine’s infrastructure, as he promised the UK earlier this month.

Other senior UK politicians have sent messages to Ukraine on the anniversary of the war:

  • Boris Johnson, the former prime minister who was in office when Russia invaded, repeated his call to arm Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “finish the job”.
  • Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey paid tribute to the “magnificent act of heroism in Ukraine” and said the UK would “stand in solidarity with Ukraine until it wins”.
  • SNP leader and Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon wished “speedy victory to Ukraine” in a letter to Ukrainians in Scotland to mark the anniversary.

During a recent European tour, President Zelensky called on Western countries to provide his country with modern fighter jets.

UK to train Ukrainian forces to fly Nato-standard aircraft But unlike other Western countries, it has yet to offer jets, suggesting it remains a long-term option.

image source, Good pictures

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Rishi Sunak hosted Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyi during his visit to London earlier this month.

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