Ukraine's Zelenska says: Commemorate resistance to aggression, not war anniversary

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By Andrius Sytas and Janis Laizans

VILNIUS (Reuters) - On Friday Ukraine will be commemorating not the first anniversary of the Russian invasion but a year of successful resistance, said Olena Zelenska, the wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Remotely addressing an anniversary event in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Thursday evening, Zelenska said that Ukraine had suffered "a year of hell."

"A year of full-scale war is a terrible date to mark. Because it is a year of attack, aggression, and murders", she said.

Friday Feb. 24 marks the start of the second year of what Russia has called a "special military operation" in Ukraine, a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people, flattened towns, and forced millions to flee.

"Today we are not commemorating a year of war, but we are celebrating a year of resistance to aggression, a year of courage, a year of mutual assistance and rescue of each other, a year of humanity, and a year of friendship," said Zelenska.

"I am sure that soon we will be able to share with you the most valuable thing - the victory. Our common victory."

The event in Vilnius was attended by several dozen Ukrainian refugees, mostly women and children, and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda.

"It's a year of horror that we have all experienced. And we believe that we have entered a victorious (year), the next year will definitely be victorious," said Viktoriia Pohodaieva, 33, a refugee from Kharkiv now living in Vilnius, at the event.

"Where horror is happening, alongside it, humanity is revealing itself. And it is really incredible. I saw how ordinary people become heroes, because they had no other choice", said Maria Kolomiets, 43, another Ukrainian from Kharkiv, now living in Wroclaw.

Ukraine's central bank marked the invasion anniversary by issuing a new banknote commemorating resistance in the war, with one side depicting three soldiers raising the national flag.

(This story has been corrected to rectify the name and age of a refugee in paragraph 8)

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas and Janis Laizans, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)