February 24, 2023 - It's now one year since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began

By Kathleen Magramo, Rob Picheta, Christian Edwards, Ed Upright, Leinz Vales, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Matt Meyer and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 3:32 p.m. ET, February 25, 2023
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7:17 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023

Ukraine can end the war this year, Zelensky says

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac and Christian Edwards

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is seen on a screen as he addresses guests during a commemoration event on February 24, at the presidential Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Germany.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is seen on a screen as he addresses guests during a commemoration event on February 24, at the presidential Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Germany. (Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukraine is capable of putting an end to the Russian invasion this year, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address to a commemorative event in Berlin on the first anniversary of the war.

Reflecting on the year that's passed, Zelensky spoke boldly of the year ahead. Ukraine has the power to win “in unity, resolutely and steadfastly,” he said. 

He also thanked Germany and all allies for standing with his country and said because of the support shown to Ukraine, no one nation would “dare aggression against another nation if he knows that the free world will defend that nation.”

"No one will attack freedom again if he knows that the free world is determined enough to defend freedom. No one will repeat February 24 of last year if he knows that not a single occupier remained on the entire territory of Ukraine."
6:17 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023

Estonian leader calls on Europe to “jointly procure ammunition for Ukraine”

From CNN's Jessie Gretener in London

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas on Friday asked European countries to “jointly procure ammunition for Ukraine,” as European Union states did with coronavirus shots during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kallas spoke at a news conference alongside European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Tallinn, to mark the anniversary of the Estonian Declaration of Independence and the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. 

Kallas drew a parallel between those events, saying: “Estonia had the courage to fight for our freedom. The same applies for Ukrainian friends. Their courage and freedom today is a reminder that freedom is not given and need constant care.”

“Freedom also needs friends and partners … Ukraine’s place is in the European Union and after the end of the war, also in NATO.” Kallas said.

“For this we must also believe in Ukraine’s victory. Ukraine needs enough weapons and ammunition to win the war.” Kallas urged. “That is why I propose for that EU member states jointly procure ammunition for Ukraine. During the pandemic we were able to react quickly to jointly procure vaccines. Let us act quickly now and send more ammunition to Ukraine.”

Kallas also called the Russian threat a “long-term one” and called on European countries to invest more in their own defense.

7:31 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023

"I opened YouTube and learned how to use a gun": Ukrainians remember the day Russia invaded

From CNN's Svitlana Vlasova and Rob Picheta

“One year ago, I was woken up by explosions,” Alina Shapoval recalled, echoing the memories of countless Ukrainians from the morning that Russia launched its assault on the country exactly one year ago.

My little daughter was sleeping next to me and the first question I had was — how is it possible?”

Shapoval, 36, lived in Kyiv and hailed from Nova Kakhovka, a city in the Kherson region which is now occupied by Russian forces. Her first hours of war resembled those of millions of her compatriots — frantically ringing family members, grabbing a travel bag, leaving home.

At first, Shapoval didn’t go far. She stayed with a relative and volunteered to help supply the armed forces with clothing and equipment, just as she had done after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

“Full of adrenalin we’ve spent (the) first weeks helping our guys, with almost no sleep,” she told CNN. “I wanted to stay in Ukraine but it was dangerous and almost impossible.”

Shapoval eventually joined the millions who have fled west, staying with a friend in Switzerland for nine months, then moving on to Wroclaw in Poland. 

She felt her life was “torn into pieces.”

“I didn’t see my relatives for such a long time, I didn’t know if I’ll see them again,” she said.

Olexander Atamas, 35, was living in Irpin when Russia invaded. “I was prepared, but even (still) it was unexpected when it happened,” he said. “I felt fear, I was stressed, psychologically it unsettled me.”

Atamas is now serving with Ukraine’s Naval Forces. “Currently there is no fear at all, there is a confidence that everything will develop in a right way, we’ll go through this modern liberation struggle, our state will withstand, will win, will get back our territories.”

Fear quickly turned to defiance for millions of Ukrainians. 

“I remember February 24th very clearly; that day I opened YouTube with my sweaty palms and started to learn how to use a gun,” Yegor Firsov, a combat paramedic in the Ukrainian military on eastern frontline, and a former lawmaker, told CNN.

“Morally and psychologically, no one was ready for war. But we overcame our fear, we gathered our strength,” he said.

“We are ready to fight as long as will be needed – day, month or years.”

6:11 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023

UK prepared to send fighter jets to Europe to release old Soviet fighter jets to Ukraine

From CNN's Jessie Gretener in London

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, left, meets Ukrainian soldiers during a visit to Bovington Camp on February 22, in Dorset, England.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, left, meets Ukrainian soldiers during a visit to Bovington Camp on February 22, in Dorset, England. (Ben Birchall/Getty Images)

The United Kingdom is prepared to supply fighter jets to its European allies, so that they can in turn send old Soviet fighter jets to Ukraine, according to British defense secretary Ben Wallace.

Wallace said a quick way for Ukraine to “benefit from fighter jets is for those countries in Europe that have Russian Soviet fighter jets – MiG 29s or Su-24s – if they wish to donate we can use our fighter jets to backfill and provide security for them as a result,” in an interview with Times Radio on Friday.

Wallace also said that the UK is working to rebuild its ammunition stockpile, noting depleted supplies since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“This Ukraine war and the way Russia is fighting has shown across the West that our stockpiles over the last three decades have often borne the brunt of defense cuts and we have to restock those.” Wallace told Sky News. 

We have now started to place orders to replenish them and where we haven’t placed orders we have started the work to make sure we have the supply chain or find alternative sources.”

Wallace also downplayed concerns regarding China’s support for Russia, noting Beijing’s choice to abstain from voting at Thursday’s UN General Assembly Resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

"If your big neighbor doesn’t vote actively in support of you it is sending a strong message to President Putin that this is unwise and a folly and that he should cease," Wallace said.

The defense secretary added that he is “confident that China is pretty clear that it wants this to stop. Ultimately China knows that Russia’s behavior has been de-stabilizing.”

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also tweeted his support for Ukraine Friday. “Stand together. Stand United,” Sunak wrote.

7:04 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023

“We are entering a new period” with “new task — to win,” Ukraine's defense minister says

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Olga Voitovych

Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Friday that Ukraine is "entering a new period" with "a new task to win," as the country marks the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion.

Reznikov reflected on how many assumptions about Ukraine before the war began have since been shattered.

"A year ago, many expected that Ukraine would be gone in a few weeks. Everything has changed. Today, the main question on the agenda is what will Ukraine's victory look like," Reznikov said in a statement.

He said "victory" means the restoration of Ukraine's 1991 borders and the elimination of the threat from Russia.

"There is no more uncertainty like a year ago. It will not be easy. But we will manage," he said. "We have confidence in our abilities. There is rage and a desire for revenge for our fallen," he added.

Reznikov also noted how Europe's support for Ukraine has shifted over the past year.

When the war began, he said "it was difficult for us to get serious weapons. Today, civilized countries see that you [Ukrainian servicemen] are the shield of Europe in the east. Europe will never be safe without Ukraine."

"It was a year of great heroes and great tragedies, of victory and pain," he said. "We survived. We have endured. Now we are entering a new period. With a new task to win," he said.

7:03 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023

Horrors of Bucha remain omnipresent for Kyiv suburb's residents

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová and Yulia Kesaieva

A man pushes his bike through destroyed Russian military vehicles in Bucha on April 6, 2022.
A man pushes his bike through destroyed Russian military vehicles in Bucha on April 6, 2022. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

A year has passed since Russian troops rolled into Bucha, and the suburb of Kyiv is trying hard to move on from the horrors it endured. There’s construction work on every corner and the cleanup operation has almost finished. The residents, however, remain scarred.

Almost every house on Vokzalna Street was destroyed and most are now being rebuilt with the help of foreign donors and volunteer construction workers, who work for minimum wage, food, and lodging. Long wooden beams have recently been delivered to multiple homes on the street; some still lie in neat piles by the roadside, others are already up on the roofs that are being restored.

Kostiantyn Momotov’s house — where the 70-year-old man has lived for almost four decades — was hit multiple times during the month-long occupation. When the Russians finally withdrew and he started clearing out the debris, he found body parts among the rubble in his yard.

“Five houses to the north of mine caught fire from the burning vehicles and ammo and their soldiers were blown to pieces. Their hands and legs and pieces were all over,” he said.

Bucha officials are trying to find ways to memorialize the events that took place there a year ago. Photographs taken in the first days after the liberation are on display in a separate hall in the town's Church of St. Andrew. Many are extremely graphic, depicting victims of some of the worst atrocities.

The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office said it had identified 91 Russian soldiers responsible for alleged war crimes in Bucha.

“During the occupation, the Russian army committed more than 9,000 war crimes in the Bucha district of Kyiv region, and more than 1,700 civilians were killed, including about 700 in Bucha,” the office said on Twitter. “So far, 91 Russian military personnel involved in these crimes have been identified. The work on bringing all those involved to justice is ongoing.”

Read more here.

5:41 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023

King Charles pays tribute to Ukraine's "courage and resilience"

From CNN's Max Foster and Lindsay Isaac

King Charles III holds an audience with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at London's Buckingham Palace on February 8.
King Charles III holds an audience with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at London's Buckingham Palace on February 8. (Aaron Chown/Getty Images)

Britain’s King Charles commended the people of Ukraine for showing “truly remarkable courage and resilience in the face of such human tragedy,” in a message marking 12 months of conflict in Ukraine. 

“It has now been a year that the people of Ukraine have suffered unimaginably from an unprovoked full-scale attack on their nation,” Charles said in a statement Friday

“The world has watched in horror at all the unnecessary suffering inflicted upon Ukrainians, many of whom I have had the great pleasure of meeting here in the UK and, indeed, across the world, from Romania to Canada.” 

The King reaffirmed his support to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, whom he met at Buckingham Palace earlier this month, and expressed his “personal support” for the people of Ukraine. 

It is heartening that the United Kingdom, along with its allies, is doing everything possible to help at this most difficult time. Therefore, I can only hope the outpouring of solidarity from across the globe may bring not only practical aid, but also strength from the knowledge that, together, we stand united,” the King said.
7:03 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023

Ukraine calls on allies to "redouble" support at "crucial stage" of war

From CNN's Victoria Butenko and Radina Gigova

Ukraine is calling on international partners to "redouble" their support as the country and the world mark the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Friday. 

"At this crucial stage of the war, we call on our international partners to redouble their comprehensive and critically needed support for Ukraine in order to speed up the Ukrainian victory," the ministry said. 

 "Vitally important is the further consolidation of efforts around the Peace Formula of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the implementation of which will ensure a just and lasting peace in Ukraine and prevent the recurrence of similar aggression in the future," the ministry said. 

"The indispensable prerequisites for the installation of peace must be complete withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine, restoration of its internationally recognized borders, reparations for the damage caused by Russia’s aggression, and bringing those who gave criminal orders and those who executed them to international criminal responsibility," the ministry said.

"Ukraine will continue moving towards its victory over the Russian aggression and full-fledged membership of the EU and NATO," the ministry said. "We pay tribute to the bravery and heroism of Ukrainian men and women of all defense and security forces protecting Ukraine."

7:02 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023

Kyiv marks the war anniversary with anxiety and resolve

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová in Kyiv

Kathalina Pahitsky, 16, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 24.
Kathalina Pahitsky, 16, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 24. (Ivana Kottasova/CNN)

Kyiv woke up feeling anxious on Friday, the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

For the past few days, the city felt emptier than usual. Some residents have left the capital, fearing a new wave of attacks. Many parents decided to keep their children home from school and the public transport system was less busy than usual during the morning rush hour.

Security has been heightened during the anniversary week, with more troops and police officers visible in the streets.

A string of events commemorating the anniversary begun early in the morning, with President Volodymyr Zelensky attending a military ceremony outside the St. Sophia Cathedral in central Kyiv.

“You will decide whether Ukraine is going to exist,” he told the assembled troops.

Just down the road, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov came to pay respect to those who lost their lives in the fighting.

Kathalina Pahitsky, 16, came to the St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery on Friday to lay flowers in memory of two former students from her school. As a student president of the school, she told CNN she felt it was her duty to represent her classmates and pay her respects.

I know that they have fallen as heroes. They were defending our country on the frontline. One of them died after he was wounded, the other one stepped on a mine."

She said it felt important to make sure the fallen are remembered and celebrated. “Their photographs are here on the main street. It’s a great honor. They died as heroes. So it’s very important for us. And it would have been for them,” she said.