‘You cannot break our dreams’ vows Zelensky as Europe pledges support ‘for as long as it takes’

Volodymyr Zelensky has promised victory and vowed that Russia “cannot break our dreams” as world leaders gathered in Kyiv on Saturday for the second anniversary of Moscow’s invasion.

Speaking from the destroyed remains of Hostomel airport, the site of one of the first battles near the capital, the Ukrainian president promised that the war would end in victory for his country.

Accompanying him on the airfield were Italian premier Giorgia Meloni, Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, as well as the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

Each leader pledged unending support for Ukraine’s battle against Russia, which Mr Trudeau said was not just a fight for Ukraine’s freedom and sovereignty but “our democracy”.

Mr Zelensky said: “Any normal person wants this war to end but none of us will allow our Ukraine to end. That’s why when it comes to ending the war we always add ‘on our terms’”.

“We fight for this. And we will prevail. You can burn the plane but you cannot destroy the dream,” he added in front of the scorched carcasses of aircraft.

Speaking to The Independent, Andriy Yermak, the head of Mr Zelensky’s office and his right-hand man, urged the world to help Ukraine in this mission.

“Please give us the weapons, the ammunition we need,” he said in an impassioned plea. “You were with us from the beginning, you helped us to stay put and defend.

“Now it is time to help us win this for all.”

President Zelensky meets military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov at Hostomel on Saturday


Italy, which holds the rotating presidency of the Group of Seven leading economies, announced that the G7 will meet virtually on Saturday with Mr Zelensky and would adopt a joint statement on Ukraine.

On the tarmac of Hostomel, Ms Meloni vowed her country’s support, saying “here the Ukrainians defended what they love and in so doing they also defended us”. Ms Von der Leyen reassured Kyiv that Europe will continue to stand by their side “for as long as it takes”.

“With more financial support, more ammunition, more training for your troops, more air defences and more investments,” she added.

Two years ago the Kremlin launched its full-scale invasion, sparking the bloodiest war in Europe in generations. After a string of stunning wins, in recent months Ukraine has struggled to hold a punishing 1000km (620 miles) frontline amid crippling shortages of ammunition and a lack of air power.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed, Russia still controls roughly a quarter of the country and nearly 10 million Ukrainians are displaced. Many also live in occupied territory waiting for liberation or for their loved ones, who are being held captive by Russia, to return home.

In the centre of the Ukrainian capital on Saturday a thousand people, families of prisoners of war, gathered demanding the immediate return of their loved ones.

Just last week Kyiv announced that it was forced to withdraw from the eastern town of Avdiivka, where Ukrainian forces had been locked in a gruelling battle with Russian soldiers for over four months.

Angry and exhausted, soldiers told The Independent they blamed the retreat on superior Russian air power and a rationing of artillery which saw Russian forces fire five times as many shells at them each day. Commanders said in the final days Russia carpet bombed Avdiivka with as many as 500 aerial munitions while they “had nothing to fire back with”.

Protests in Sophia Square in Kyiv by families of prisoners held by Russia

(Bel Trew)

Part of the problem has been a comparatively sluggish response from Europe, which has struggled to source enough weapons and ammunition to send to Kyiv. Complicating matters are domestic squabbles in US congress over a $60bn military package. The stalling of the aid has sparked concerns of growing US isolationism in the lead up to US presidential elections in November. In Kyiv, several British politicians, including former prime minister Boris Johnson and cross-party delegations of MPs visited the capital for the anniversary. They said it was time for a “paradigm shift” and Europe “to step up to defend ourselves”.

Mr Johnson, who had a brief meeting with ally and friend Mr Zelensky, said the UK and its allies “need to do more and faster”.

He warned Russia and the world’s “autocracies are ganging up” and it was “time for the democracies to defend themselves”.

He told The Independent: “One of the things we should consider is whether it’s time for Nato to give a percentage of our allocated budget for Ukraine’s defence.”

“I believe now is the time.”

It’s time for the democracies of the world to defend themselves

Boris Johnson

Alicia Kearns, conservative MP and chair of the foreign affairs committee, warned the threat of Mr Putin had largely been forgotten in the US.

“Europe had to step up to defend ourselves,” she said, proposing a formal alliance between UK, Germany, Poland, and Ukraine to spearhead support in the war.

“I feel very ashamed by what happened to Avdiivka. That was our failure,” she said, adding that there had been a woefully belated “European wake-up call” about Ukraine. “We must act now because thousands of lives are being lost and autocrats on the march are being rewarded and seeing those rewards.”

Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood told The Independent that he feared there remained a “myth in the UK that this was a Ukrainian war not a European one”.

“If we don’t defeat Russia, if we don’t help Ukraine, the cost in the longer term will be huge in comparison. That penny hasn’t dropped. Putin will not stop here, he wants to expand his influence.

“Let’s help Ukraine finish the job.”

The UK has pledged to invest £245m in producing artillery shells for Ukraine and £8.5m in humanitarian funding as the conflict enters its third year.

Joining a chorus of support from world leaders, Rishi Sunak said on Saturday that “tyranny will never triumph” and London would back Kyiv “until they prevail”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who hopes to enter Number 10 after the general election this year, said Britain would always support Ukraine “no matter who is in power in this country” and added that Mr Putin’s “cowardice and barbarity” will not continue .

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