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President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to defeat Russia in 2023, as Ukraine marked the solemn anniversary of the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion and a year that forever altered the country and upturned the global order.

“A year ago on this day, from this same place around seven in the morning, I addressed you with a brief statement, lasting only 67 seconds,” the president said in a morning address, recalling his dawn speech delivered as bombs fell across Ukraine on February 24 2022.

“Two of the most important things both then and now echoed . . . The fact that Russia started a full-scale war against us. And that we are strong. We are ready for anything. We will defeat everyone. Because we are Ukraine!”

In his anniversary address, Zelenskyy called last February 24 “the longest day of our lives. The most difficult day in our recent history. We woke up early and haven’t slept since.”

The past 365 days, he said, were “a year of resilience. Year of courage. A year of pain. A year of hope. A year of aging. A year of unity. The year of invincibility.” As the war enters its second year, the Ukrainian president said that “our victory is inevitable. It is close. It will happen.”

Volodymyr Zelenskyy with US president Joe Biden outside St Michael’s Cathedral in Kyiv earlier this week © Evan Vucci/AP

Speaking defiantly from his presidential office dressed in a black sweatshirt adorned with a golden trident, Ukraine’s coat of arms, he said Ukrainians “did not raise the white flag, but began to defend the blue-yellow one” when the invasion broke out.

Ukrainians “weren’t scared, didn’t break down, didn’t give up”, Zelenskyy said. He recalled the acts of defiance that defined the first hours of Russia’s invasion, including the famous retort from Ukrainian border guards on Snake Island to the demand of Russia’s Moskva missile cruiser for them to surrender.

The border guards’ response, “Russian warship, go f*** yourself!” became a battle cry that would reverberate across the world and inspire Ukrainian resistance.

Zelenskyy underscored the fact that Russia’s attempt to subjugate Ukraine began not one year ago, but in spring 2014. “Nine years ago, our neighbour became an aggressor. A year ago, the aggressor became an executioner, looter and terrorist. We have no doubt that they will be held accountable,” he said.

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