Zelenskiy welcomes western leaders in Kyiv as Ukraine marks second anniversary of Russian invasion

Leaders arrive shortly after Russian drone attack on residential building in southern city of Odesa

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has welcomed western leaders to Kyiv to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion, as Ukrainian forces run low on ammunition and weaponry and foreign aid hangs in the balance.

Zelenskiy posted a video from Hostomel airfield with Italian premier Giorgia Meloni, Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, as well as European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

“Two years ago, here, we met enemy landing forces with fire; two years later, we meet our friends and our partners here,” Zelenskiy said at the airport just outside Kyiv, which Russian paratroopers unsuccessfully tried to seize in the first days of the war.

Western leaders arrived shortly after a Russian drone attack struck a residential building in the southern city of Odesa, killing at least one person.


Three women also sustained severe burns in the attack on Friday evening on a residential building, regional governor Oleh Kiper said on his social media account. Rescue services are still combing rubble looking for survivors.

“More than ever we stand firmly by Ukraine. Financially, economically, militarily, morally. Until the country is finally free,” Ms von der Leyen wrote on social media after she arrived in Kyiv.

But on the front line in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian soldiers pleaded for ammunition.

“When the enemy comes in, a lot of our guys die. We are sitting here with nothing,” said Volodymyr (27), a senior officer in an artillery battery.

“In order to protect our infantry… we need a high number of shells, which we do not have now,” said Oleksandr (45), the commander of an artillery unit.

The war has also come to Russia. Drones hit a steel plant in the Lipetsk region in southern Russia on Saturday, causing a large fire, regional governor Igor Artamonov said, adding there were no casualties.

Independent Russian media said the Novolipetsk Metallurgical Plant is the largest steel factory in Russia. Videos shared on Russian social media showed several fires burning, and an explosion could be heard.

Independent Russian news outlet Mediazona said on Saturday that about 75,000 Russian men died in 2022 and 2023 fighting in the war.

Working with journalists from other outlets, it said the rate of Russia’s losses in Ukraine is not slowing and Moscow is losing about 120 men a day.

Based on a statistical analysis of the recorded deaths of soldiers compared with a Russian inheritance database, the journalists said about 83,000 soldiers are likely to have died by Saturday, the second anniversary of the full-scale invasion.

According to Mediazona’s analysis, regular Russian troops sustained the heaviest losses in the first months of the war, but after prisoners were offered their freedom in exchange for fighting and after president Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilisation, those groups started to sustain more casualties, particularly in the early months of 2023.

A sombre mood hangs over the country Kyiv’s troops face mounting challenges on the front line amid dwindling ammunition and personnel challenges.

Its troops recently withdrew from the strategic eastern city of Avdiivka, handing Moscow one of its biggest victories.

Earlier this month, Zelenskiy fired top military commander Valerii Zaluzhnyi, replacing him with colonel general Oleksandr Syrskyi, in the most significant shake-up of top brass since the invasion.

Russia still controls roughly one-quarter of the country after Ukraine failed to make any major breakthroughs with its summertime counter-offensive.

Meanwhile, millions of Ukrainians continue to live in precarious circumstances in the crossfire of battles, and many others face constant struggles under Russian occupation.

Olena Zelenska, wife of Zelenskiy, said on Saturday that more than two million Ukrainian children have left the country since the war began and at least 528 have been killed.

“The war started by Russia deliberately targets children,” she said.

In the US Congress, Republicans have stalled $60 billion in military aid for Kyiv, desperately needed in the short term.

The EU recently approved a €50 billion aid package for Ukraine to support its economy, despite resistance from Hungary.

US president Joe Biden tied the loss of the defensive stronghold of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region after months of gruelling battles to the stalled US aid.

Fears have since risen that Ukrainian forces will face similar difficulties across other parts of the front line as they come under mounting pressure from Russian assaults. – AP