Ukraine on the defensive as Russia war enters third year

Ukraine on Saturday marked two years since Russia's invasion, entering a new year of war weakened by a lack of western aid while Russia is emboldened by fresh gains.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a "special military operation" at dawn on Feb. 24, 2022, many expected Moscow's victory within days, but Ukraine fought back, forcing Russian troops into humiliating retreats.

But Ukraine has suffered setbacks with the failure of its 2023 counteroffensive. The Russian army has in turn built up a position of strength thanks to booming war production, while Ukraine's troops are short of manpower and running low on Western-supplied ammunition for artillery and air defences.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that decisions on arms supplies have to be "the priority".

Saturday's anniversary will see visits by Western leaders including EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, but the overall picture remains bleak for Kiev due to the U.S. Congress blocking a vital $60 billion aid package. This has come on top of delays in promised European deliveries.

U.S. President Joe Biden renewed calls for Republican lawmakers to unblock the additional funding, warning that "history is waiting" and "failure to support Ukraine at this critical moment will not be forgotten".

 'War is our life' 

Russia is attacking hard in the east, with the destroyed town of Maryinka near Donetsk the latest hotspot after it captured the heavily fortified town of Avdiivka on Feb. 17.

Ukraine's economy has also been hit by a border blockade by Polish farmers that Kiev says threatens exports and has held up deliveries of weapons.

In Kiev, the mood was grim but still defiant as people said they had grown...

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