Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was “certain” his country will win the war against Russia as Ukraine marked the first anniversary of Russian invasion on Friday.
Responding to a question from CNN’s Christiane Amanpour at a press conference in the capital Kyiv, Zelensky said: “Victory will be inevitable. I am certain there will be victory.”
“We have everything for it. We have the motivation, certainty, the friends, the diplomacy. You have all come together for this,” Zelensky said. “If we all do our important homework, victory will be inevitable.”
Zelensky used the first anniversary of the war to rally his troops and renew his calls for international assistance for his country. He handed out awards to soldiers and visited wounded service members before holding the rare press conference.
Earlier on Friday morning, the Ukrainian leader addressed members of the military in Kyiv. He told them it was they who would determine the future of the country.
“It is you who will decide whether we are all going to exist. Whether Ukraine is going to exist. Every day. Every hour. It is you – Ukrainian soldiers – which will decide it,” he said.
There was a noticeable feeling of anxiety in Kyiv on Friday, as many of its residents worried Russia might launch new attacks on the day of the anniversary.
The public transport system was less busy than usual during the morning rush-hour and many parents decided to keep their children home from school.
Security was heightened, with visibly more troops and police officers out patrolling the streets.
While air-raid sirens are a daily fixture in Kyiv, there hasn’t been a major attack on the city in a few weeks, which means that whenever the alarms are activated, people are left gauging the level of risk.
Across the country, ordinary Ukrainians marked the day in their own ways.
Kathalina Pahitsky, a 16-year old student, went to the St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery in Kyiv to lay flowers in memory of two former students from her school who lost their lives fighting in the war.
It was a bitterly cold morning in Kyiv, but Pahitsky said she felt it was her duty as the student president of her school to represent her classmates and pay her respects to the fallen heroes.
“They were defending our country on the front line. One of them died after he was wounded, the other one stepped on a mine,” she told CNN.
Holding a few red flowers adorned with blue and yellow ribbons, she said those killed in the war must be 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.
Olexander Atamas, who was an IT worker before the war and now serves with the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said it was hard to describe his feelings on Friday.
“I would prefer to describe what I don’t feel now, I don’t feel a fear, but [I] feel confidence in my abilities,” he told CNN. “One year ago … I felt fear, I was stressed, psychologically it unsettled me. But currently there is no fear at all.”