Ukraine braces for Independence Day attacks at six-month mark of war

  • Zelenskiy warns of possible ‘brutal attacks’ from Russia
  • The holiday of August 24 marks six months since the invasion
  • The UN nuclear body could visit the Ukraine plant in a few days

Kyiv, Aug 24 (Reuters) – Ukrainians mark 31 years since liberating themselves 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 subjugate the country once again. . .

Ukraine’s Independence Day coincides with the sixth anniversary of Russia’s invasion on February 24 and will be marked by subdued celebrations under the threat of attacks by land, air and sea.

Public gatherings are banned in the capital, Kyiv, and a curfew is in place in the eastern city of Kharkiv, which is on the front lines and has endured months of shelling.

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The government has placed the bodies of charred Russian tanks and armored vehicles as war trophies in central Kyiv in a show of defiance. read more

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned Tuesday night of the possibility of “disgusting Russian provocations” and officials urged people to take warnings of air strikes seriously.

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

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

The war has killed thousands of civilians, forced more than a third of Ukraine’s 41 million people from their homes, left cities in ruins and rattled world markets. It is largely paralyzed with no immediate prospect of peace talks.

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

Ukraine’s armed forces have said nearly 9,000 servicemen have been killed in the war so far.

Russia has not made its losses public, but US intelligence estimates that 15,000 people were killed in what Moscow calls a “special military operation” to “de-Nazify” Ukraine. Kyiv says the invasion is an unprovoked act of imperial aggression.

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

CONCERN ABOUT NUCLEAR PLANTS

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

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

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

Pro-Moscow forces took over the plant shortly after the invasion began, but it is still operated by Ukrainian technicians. The United Nations has called for the zone to be demilitarized.

Russia on Tuesday accused Ukraine of shelling the plant with artillery and targeting it with guided munitions and a drone, prompting Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya to deny it.

“No one who is even aware can imagine that Ukraine would target a nuclear power plant with a tremendous risk of nuclear catastrophe and on its own territory,” Kyslytsya told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in New York called for Russia.

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

Advanced US missile systems appear to have helped Ukraine strike deep behind front lines in recent months, taking out ammunition dumps and command posts.

In the latest mysterious fire at a Russian military facility, Russian officials said ammunition stored in southern Russia near the Ukrainian border spontaneously burned Tuesday.

Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of the Belgorod region, blamed the hot weather for the fire, drawing ridicule from Ukraine.

“In a few months we will find out whether Russian ammunition 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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Reuters bureau reports; written by Grant McCool and Stephen Coates; Edited by Cynthia Osterman and Lincoln Feast.

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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