“Despite the cold, darkness, and missile strikes, Ukraine persevered and defeated his winter terror,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter. “Furthermore, Europe has not ‘frozen’ despite Russian predictions and mockery.”
Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov also marked the moment, welcoming spring as a new, more hopeful, season.
“They wanted to freeze us and throw us into darkness,” he tweeted. “We survived!”
“This winter is over,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address. “It was very difficult, and every Ukrainian without exaggeration felt this difficulty. But we still managed to provide Ukraine with energy and heat.”
“Happy first day of spring, Ukraine,” the country’s border police wrote on Telegram on Wednesday alongside a photo of an officer holding a bunch of white flowers in the snow.
Ukraine’s state border guards also joined the celebration, writing on Telegram that the new month symbolized renewed hope and “the beginning of a new life.”
Believe it or not, it’s officially the first day of spring in Ukraine!
Yes indeed, it’s a bright sunny day….
And we’ve weathered many a storm, we’ve survived the winter and the incessant missile strikes, and we’ve continued living and believing in Victory!#SummerVibes #ZSU pic.twitter.com/pUkeZbU9TP
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) March 1, 2023
The weather remained cold in parts of Ukraine on Wednesday — with snow falling in some areas of the country, melting snow muddying the fields in Donetsk and, in a regular occurrence now, air raid sirens warning residents in Kyiv and Kramatorsk to take cover.
Yet, many Ukrainians enjoyed taking a moment to mark their spring, acknowledging their survival as a victory in itself.
Ukrainian soldier Yuriy Syrotyuk, who fought in the Territorial Defense Forces, shared an image of a budding tree on Instagram, welcoming the “unstoppable and inevitable Ukrainian victorious Spring.”
“We survived this winter,” read one tweet from a user based in Kyiv. “We know the price of life. Let’s catch every moment of it.”
Officials and experts had warned at the start of the winter that Ukraine was on the brink of a humanitarian disaster, when a slew of Russian airstrikes targeted the country’s energy infrastructure, leaving citizens across the country facing blackouts and an absence of heat and running water. On the battlefield, troops fought in temperatures below freezing.
At the time, the World Health Organization warned that the period of extreme weather could be life-threatening. “Put simply, this winter will be about survival,” said Hans Henri P. Kluge, regional director for the WHO.
On Friday, Ukraine marked one year at war with Russia, a conflict that has displaced millions of Ukrainians and killed tens of thousands of people on each side. Ukrainian forces have widely exceeded expectations, putting up a fierce defense against Russia. However, Russian forces still occupy huge swaths of Ukrainian territory.
Speaking on the Feb. 24 anniversary, Zelensky hailed his country’s “furious year of invincibility,” recalling the start of the war as “the longest day of our lives” and “the hardest day of our modern history.”
“We woke up early and haven’t fallen asleep since,” he said.
Siobhán O’Grady, David L. Stern and Missy Ryan contributed to this report.
One year of Russia’s war in Ukraine
Portraits of Ukraine: Every Ukrainian’s life has changed since Russia launched its full-scale invasion one year ago — in ways both big and small. They have learned to survive and support each other under extreme circumstances, in bomb shelters and hospitals, destroyed apartment complexes and ruined marketplaces. Scroll through portraits of Ukrainians reflecting on a year of loss, resilience and fear.
Battle of attrition: Over the past year, the war has morphed from a multi-front invasion that included Kyiv in the north to a conflict of attrition largely concentrated along an expanse of territory in the east and south. Follow the 600-mile front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces and take a look at where the fighting has been concentrated.
A year of living apart: Russia’s invasion, coupled with Ukraine’s martial law preventing fighting-age men from leaving the country, has forced agonizing decisions for millions of Ukrainian families about how to balance safety, duty and love, with once-intertwined lives having become unrecognizable. Here’s what a train station full of goodbyes looked like last year.
Deepening global divides: President Biden has trumpeted the reinvigorated Western alliance forged during the war as a “global coalition,” but a closer look suggests the world is far from united on issues raised by the Ukraine war. Evidence abounds that the effort to isolate Putin has failed and that sanctions haven’t stopped Russia, thanks to its oil and gas exports.