Rishi Sunak has led a minute’s silence from Downing Street to mark the first anniversary of Russia invading Ukraine.
The Prime Minister was joined outside No 10 by wife Akshata Murthy, Kyiv’s ambassador to Britain Vadym Prystaiko and dozens of Ukrainian soldiers for the national pause on Friday morning.
Mr Sunak earlier said the moment would pay tribute to Ukrainians and highlight the UK’s solidarity with the country, two weeks after president Volodymyr Zelensky visited.
“As we approach the anniversary of Russia’s barbaric and deplorable invasion of Ukraine, as a nation we pay tribute to the incredible bravery and resilience of the Ukrainian people,” said Mr Sunak.
The war began when Kremlin-aligned forces invaded Ukraine a year ago on February 24, 2022, with thousands killed on both sides over the past year. Millions more have been forced from their homes, with 114,400 Ukrainians finding refuge in the UK.
Mr Sunak added: “Russia’s unjustifiable attack brought war and destruction to our continent once again, and it has forced millions from their homes and devastated families across Ukraine and Russia.
“I am incredibly proud of the UK’s response and, throughout this past year, the UK public have shown their true generosity of spirit and their enduring belief in freedom.”
Several ministers and shadow ministers joined the cohort of backbench Labour and Conservative MPs in the Commons for the occasion.
Deputy Commons Speaker Dame Rosie Winterton said “Slava Ukraini” – meaning “Glory to Ukraine” in the Ukrainian language – as the silence came to an end.
On Friday morning, Mr Sunak hosted Ukrainian ambassador Vadym Prystaiko and members of the country’s armed forces in Downing Street before the minute’s silence. Then, in a virtual call with G7 leaders, he will reportedly encourage them to join Britain in stepping up support.
Britain is in discussions about sending longer-range weapons such as Harpoon anti-ship missiles or Storm Shadow air-to-surface missiles, as well as a squadron of Challenger 2 tanks, and has offered to support other countries that can provide jets.
Britain has provided at least £2.3 billion in aid to Ukraine since the start of the war and Mr Zelensky thanked the country on his visit on February 8, when he addressed Parliament and met King Charles at Buckingham Palace.
A tweet from the Government said: “Prime Minister @rishisunak will lead the nation in silence, paying tribute to the courage of the Ukrainian people.”
Culture secretary Lucy Frazer added: “One year on from Putin’s illegal invasion, we stand in solidarity with our friends in Ukraine and remember all those who have lost their lives in the pursuit of freedom.
“This moment of silence is a time to reflect on the human cost of this conflict and show we stand with Ukraine.”