Ukraine: Kyiv displays captured tanks on Independence Day as Ukrainians cast wary eye on Russia


Kyiv, Ukraine
CNN

Ukraine’s Independence Day, which Wednesday marks 31 years since the country voted to break with the Soviet Unionis expected to be a grim affair as officials warn that Russia could carry out missile attacks on Ukrainian cities.

While previous years have been marked by celebrations and parades, Wednesday’s commemoration comes exactly six months after Russia began its invasion of the country.

President Volodymyr Zelensky marked the day with a moving speech that spoke of the Russian invasion as another Independence Day – the day Ukraine had to fight for its freedom, rather than just vote for her at the ballot box.

“A new nation emerged on February 24 at 4 a.m. Not born, but reborn. A nation which did not cry, which did not shout, which was not afraid. Did not run away. Didn’t give up. I haven’t forgotten,” Zelensky said Wednesday.

He added: “Every new day is a new reason not to give up. Because after so much we have no right not to come to the end. What is the end of the war for us? used to say: Peace. Now we say: Victory.

The head of Kyiv’s military administration, Major General Mykola Zhyrnov, said events had been banned in the capital and other cities so security forces could respond more effectively to potential Russian attacks.

Instead of a parade, destroyed and captured Russian military vehicles, including tanks, were placed on Kyiv’s main street, Khreshchatyk, in testimony to Moscow’s failed attempt to capture the capital in the early stages. weeks of war.

“The enemy planned to hold a ‘parade’ on Khreshchatyk in three days, but it didn’t work out. Our armed forces fought back,” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, wrote on Telegram Saturdaywhen the vehicles were put on the road with a crane.

On the eve of Independence Day, crowds of people were seen in Khreshchatyk, inspecting the exhibit. Some children crawled over the rusting metal wreckage of a tank, while others posed for photos beside the mangled vehicles.

Liubov, who asked that her last name not be published, said she came to show the “scrap parade” to her 8-year-old son, Illia.

As Illia rode a Russian combat vehicle, Liubov described the parade as “symbolic”, saying “a lot of people in Kyiv (forgot) about the war, so I think it’s a good reminder”.

Her husband, who is fighting on the front line, implored her to leave the capital for their summer home 50 kilometers (31 miles) away, she said. But she refused to go.

Even if there are “massive missile strikes on Kyiv (Wednesday), we won’t leave,” she said, explaining that she has an emergency bag at home, with enough clothes and suits “in case of radioactive pollution… in case of missiles”. We are no longer so easily frightened by them.

“I don’t feel celebratory about (Independence Day), I feel rather sad,” she added. “Because I understand what’s going on and my husband and my brother are on the front line.”

Holding a Ukrainian flag, another viewer told CNN she also had relatives who fought against Russia.

“My dad is on the front line, a lot of my loved ones are on the front line… so tomorrow is not a holiday in itself, but honoring and feeling the independence, because this time it will be different from the previous 30 years,” said said Daria, 35, who declined to give her last name.

Liubov says she won't leave Kyiv despite the risk of a Russian attack.

Zelensky warned on Tuesday that Russia can intensify efforts to launch attacks, including missile strikes, against “infrastructure facilities or state institutions” around the party. The US government joined in the chorus of concern, telling Americans on Tuesday to leave the country immediately.

On Khreshchatyk, by the Ukrainian spoils of war, many who spoke to CNN shared their concerns about a possible Russian attack on Wednesday.

“We had planned to come here tomorrow but as there were many warnings for tomorrow, we will stay at home,” Oleh Fetir, 51, said as he visited the parade with his wife.

“We came here to see the scrap parade, because the (Russians) ruined the party for us. Last year on independence day we were here to watch the parade (of Ukrainian military equipment), with the planes, it was majestic and mesmerizing. However, this current parade is quite impressive. The photos of those who were inside are missing,” he said in reference to the Russian soldiers.

After six months of conflict that derailed Ukraine’s economy and disrupted almost every aspect of daily life, the weariness was palpable.

Daria is also worried about an attack on Independence Day.

“I don’t feel festive for tomorrow, not in a festive mood,” said Oleksii, 29, explaining that he was worried about the missile fire on the capital.

“My hatred for Russians has become so great that it tears me apart,” said Anna, 68, who declined to give her last name for security reasons.

The clinic she works at has told her to work remotely for the next few days. “I worked (throughout) the war…sometimes I would come home under bombardment,” she said.

She described Russian President Vladimir Putin as unpredictable, like “a monkey holding a grenade”.

“He says one thing, does something different, and no one can guess what’s really on his mind,” she said.

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