- Written by James Gregory and Paul Seddon
- BBC News
The UK will observe a minute of silence to mark the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Silence is held at 11:00 GMT on Friday to commemorate the war, which claimed the lives of thousands of civilians and soldiers, between dead and wounded.
It comes after crowds gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square on Thursday to hold a vigil for Ukraine.
Later, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will urge allies to “move faster” in arming Ukraine at a G7 meeting later.
Sunak will also host Ukrainian forces at a Downing Street rally.
Other British political leaders will also mark the anniversary of the war, with Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer calling on the UK to “double” its support for Ukraine.
At the vigil Thursday night, the audience watched a moving reading of the Ukrainian poem Take Only What’s Most Important by actress Dame Helen Mirren – whose tears were evident.
The event also heard Defense Secretary Ben Wallace praise Ukrainian soldiers as “the bravest of the brave”.
The conflict, which began when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 last year, has seen at least 100,000 soldiers killed or wounded on each side, according to the US military.
Thousands of civilians have also been killed, and more than 13 million people have become 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 the UK with Rita’s British partner, Andy.
She told BBC2’s Newsnight that she would “never forget” the “terrible sound, panic and fear” when Russian forces invaded.
Rita said her heart was “aching” after seeing how parts of Ukraine had changed after 12 months of conflict.
“The country is in pain,” she said. “I know how my country is and how it can be, I know how beautiful it is. Now it’s different [but] He can go back to that sweet place.
“I can see summer time—it will be warm, it will be green. This is how I see Ukraine—with lots of green trees with lots of flowers…with lots of smiles on people’s faces and tears of happiness.”
Ukraine is urging its Western backers to step up support, as Russia rallies ahead of its expected spring offensive.
During a virtual meeting of G7 leaders later, Sunak is expected to say that an acceleration of subsidies is “what it takes to change Putin’s mentality”.
“This should be our priority now,” he adds. “Instead of taking an incremental approach, we need to move faster in artillery, armor and air defence.”
He is expected to make the case for supplying Ukraine with “long-range weapons” to disable Russia’s ability to target Ukraine’s infrastructure, something the UK committed to earlier this month.
Other senior British politicians sent letters to Ukraine on the anniversary of the war:
- Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was in office when Russia invaded, has repeated his call for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to be given weapons to “finish the job”.
- Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey hailed Ukraine’s “incredible heroism” and said the UK would “stand in solidarity with Ukraine until victory”.
- SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wished a “quick victory for Ukraine” in a message to Ukrainians in Scotland to mark the anniversary
During a recent tour of Europe, President Zelensky increased his calls for Western countries to provide his country with modern combat aircraft.
The UK will start training Ukrainian forces to fly NATO-standard aircraft. But like other Western countries, it has not yet provided it with aircraft, saying it is still a long-term option.
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