Ukraine braces for Independence Day attacks after six months of war

  • Zelenskiy warns of possible ‘brutal strikes’ from Russia
  • August 24 holiday marks six months since invasion
  • UN nuclear body could visit Ukrainian plant within days

KYIV, Aug 24 (Reuters) – Ukrainians mark 31 years since breaking free from the Russian-dominated Soviet Union on Wednesday in what is sure to be a day of defiance against the Kremlin’s six-month war to submit to the country again.

Ukraine’s Independence Day falls on the sixth anniversary of the February 24 Russian invasion and will be marked by muted celebrations under threat of land, air and sea attacks.

Public gatherings are banned in the capital Kyiv and a curfew is in effect in the eastern city of Kharkiv, which has withstood months of bombardment.

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The government has laid out the carcasses of burnt-out Russian tanks and armored vehicles as trophies of war in central Kyiv in a show of defiance. Read more

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Tuesday night warned of the possibility of “repulsive Russian provocations” and authorities urged the public to take warnings of air raids seriously.

“We are fighting against the most terrible threat to our state and also at a time when we have reached the highest level of national unity,” Zelenskiy said in an evening speech.

Earlier on Tuesday, he told representatives of about 60 states and international organizations attending a virtual summit on Crimea that Kyiv would drive Russian forces from the peninsula by any means necessary, without consulting other countries first. Read more

The war has killed thousands of civilians, driven more than a third of Ukraine’s 41 million people, left cities in ruins and shaken global markets. It has largely stalled, with no immediate prospect of peace talks.

In addition to Crimea, which it annexed in 2014, Russia has extended its control to areas in the south, including the Black Sea and Sea of ​​Azov coasts, and parts of the eastern Donbass region including the Lugansk and Donetsk provinces.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces said nearly 9,000 servicemen have been killed in the war so far.

Russia has not made its losses public, but US intelligence estimates the death toll at 15,000 in what Moscow calls a “special military operation” to “denazify” Ukraine. Kyiv says the invasion is an act of unprovoked imperial aggression.

Ukraine broke free from the Soviet Union in August 1991 after a failed putsch in Moscow and an overwhelming majority of Ukrainians voted in a referendum to declare independence.


The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, said the UN nuclear watchdog hoped to gain access to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine in A few days. Read more

Both sides accused the other of firing missiles and artillery dangerously close to the plant, Europe’s largest, raising fears of a nuclear disaster.

“I continue to consult very actively and intensively with all parties,” Grossi said in a statement on Tuesday. “The mission should take place in the next few days if the ongoing negotiations are successful.”

Pro-Moscow forces took over the plant soon after the invasion began, but it is still operated by Ukrainian technicians. The United Nations has called for the demilitarization of the area.

Russia on Tuesday accused Ukraine of bombarding the factory with artillery and attacking it with guided munitions and a drone, drawing the denial of Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya.

“Nobody who is at least aware can imagine that Ukraine would target a nuclear power plant at huge risk of nuclear disaster and on its own territory,” Kyslytsya told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. in New York convened by Russia.

The United States, which has sent $10.6 billion in security aid to Ukraine, will announce a new package of about $3 billion as early as Wednesday, a US official said. Read more

Advanced US missile systems appear to have helped Ukraine strike far behind the front lines in recent months, destroying munitions dumps and command posts.

In the latest mysterious fire at a Russian military installation, Russian officials said munitions stored in southern Russia near the border with Ukraine burned spontaneously on Tuesday.

Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of the Belgorod region, blamed hot weather for the blaze, ridiculing Ukraine.

“In a few months we will know if Russian munitions can explode due to cold,” Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said in a tweet.

“The five main causes of sudden explosions in Russia are: winter, spring, summer, autumn and smoking.”

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Reports from Reuters offices; written by Grant McCool and Stephen Coates; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Lincoln Feast.

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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