Media caption, Watch: Emotional Dame Helen Mirren tears up reciting poem for Ukraine
By James Gregory & Paul Seddon
The UK will hold a minute’s silence to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The silence will be held at 11:00 GMT on Friday to commemorate the war, which has seen thousands of civilians and soldiers killed and injured.
It comes after crowds gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square on Thursday to hold a vigil for Ukraine.
Later, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will urge allies to “move faster” in arming Ukraine at a meeting of the G7 later.
Mr Sunak will also host Ukrainian troops at a gathering at Downing Street.
Other British political leaders will also mark the war’s anniversary, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer calling for the UK to “double down” on support for Ukraine.
At Thursday evening’s vigil the crowd saw an emotional reading of the Ukrainian poem Take Only What Is Most Important by actress Dame Helen Mirren – who was visibly moved to tears.
The event also heard from Defence Secretary Ben Wallace who paid tribute to Ukrainian soldiers as the “bravest of the brave”.
The conflict, which began when Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February last year, has seen at least 100,000 of each side’s soldiers killed or injured, according to the US military.
Thousands of civilians have also been killed, with more than 13 million people made refugees abroad or displaced within Ukraine.
Rita and her four children were among those who fled the country in the early stages of the conflict. They are now living in the UK with Rita’s British partner, Andy.
She told BBC Two’s Newsnight programme she would “never forget” the “horrible sound, that panic, that fear” when Russian troops invaded.
Rita said her heart was “aching” after witnessing how parts of Ukraine had changed after 12 months of conflict.
“The country is in pain,” she said. “I know how my country is and how it can be, I know how beautiful it is. Now it’s different [but] it can come back to that beautiful place.
“I can see summer time – it is going to be warm, it’s going to be green. That’s how I see Ukraine – with lots of green trees with lots of flowers… with lots of smiles on people’s face and with tears from happiness.”
Image caption, Rita has been back to Ukraine since settling in the UK
Ukraine has been urging its Western backers to increase support, as Russia mobilises ahead of an expected spring offensive.
During a virtual meeting of leaders from the G7 group of advanced economies later, Mr Sunak is expected to say an acceleration in support is “what it will take to shift Putin’s mindset”.
“This must be our priority now,” he will add. “Instead of an incremental approach, we need to move faster on artillery, armour, and air defence.”
He is expected to make the argument for supplying Ukraine with “longer-range weapons” to disrupt Russia’s ability to target Ukraine’s infrastructure, something to which he committed the UK earlier this month.
Other senior UK politicians have sent messages to Ukraine on the anniversary of the war:
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was in office when Russia invaded, repeated his call to give Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky weapons “to finish the job”Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey paid tribute to the “amazing acts of heroism in Ukraine” and said the UK would “stand in solidarity with Ukraine until they achieve victory”SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wished a “speedy victory for Ukraine” in a letter to Ukrainians in Scotland to mark the anniversaryDuring a recent tour of Europe, President Zelensky increased his calls for Western nations to supply his country with modern fighter jets.
The UK is to start training Ukrainian forces to fly Nato-standard aircraft. But like other Western nations, it has so far not supplied jets, saying it remains a long-term option.
Although support for Ukraine has united the UK’s main political parties, Mr Sunak has faced pressure from some of his own Conservative MPs to supply fighter planes as soon as possible.
Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, Rishi Sunak hosted Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky during his trip to London earlier this month