- Provocative Zelenskiy, warns of Russia’s ‘brutal strikes’
- August 24 holiday marks six months since invasion
- UN nuclear agency could visit Ukrainian plant within days
KYIV, Aug 24 (Reuters) – Ukraine was “reborn” when Russia invaded six months ago, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday, marking 31 years of independence from Ukraine. -vis the Moscow-controlled Soviet Union with a vow to oust Russian forces altogether. .
After days of warnings that Moscow could use Ukraine’s Independence Day anniversary to launch more missile attacks on major cities, the second-largest city of Kharkiv was under curfew after months of bombardment.
The anniversary fell exactly six months after Russia sent tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine. Wednesday’s celebrations were canceled but many people marked the day by wearing embroidered shirts that are part of the national dress.
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In a moving speech to his compatriots, Zelenskiy said Russia’s attack had revived the nation’s spirit.
“A new nation appeared in the world at 4 a.m. on February 24. It was not born, but reborn. A nation that did not cry, scream or fear. One that did not flee. Didn’t give up. And didn’t forget,” he said.
The 44-year-old leader, speaking in front of Kyiv’s central independence monument in his combat uniform, vowed to take back occupied areas of eastern Ukraine as well as the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.
“We are not going to sit at the negotiating table out of fear, with a gun pointed at our heads. For us, the most terrible iron is not missiles, planes and tanks, but chains. Not the trenches, but the shackles,” he said.
He and his wife then attended a service in Kyiv’s Saint Sophia Cathedral with religious leaders from all major Ukrainian denominations.
Russia has made little progress in Ukraine in recent months after its troops were pushed back from Kyiv in the first weeks of the war. Ukrainian soldiers on the front line in the east say they are more motivated than their enemy.
“All our people are cheering us on,” a soldier named Yevhen told Reuters, declining to give his surname. “The whole country is, and other countries that help us too. Our fighting spirit is greater than theirs.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told a meeting of defense ministers in Uzbekistan that Russia had deliberately slowed down what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine to avoid civilian casualties. Read more
On Tuesday evening, Zelenskiy warned of the possibility of “repugnant Russian provocations” and on Wednesday, Ukraine’s military urged people to take air raid warnings seriously, reporting further air and missile attacks on civilian buildings. .
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 shaken the global economy. It has largely stalled, with no immediate prospect of peace talks.
US President Joe Biden announced nearly $3 billion for weapons and equipment for Ukraine in Washington’s “largest tranche of security aid to date”, while the NATO chief told Ukrainians that they were an inspiration to the world.
“You can count on NATO’s support. For as long as it takes,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a video message.
Besides Crimea, Russian forces have seized areas in the south, including the Black Sea and Sea of Azov coasts, as well as parts of the eastern Donbass region including Luhansk and Donetsk provinces.
US officials have warned of likely new Russian attacks on civilian and government infrastructure in the coming days.
Nearly 9,000 Ukrainian servicemen have been killed in the war, its army said this week. Kyiv says the invasion is an act of unprovoked imperial aggression.
Russia has not made its losses public, but US intelligence estimates the death toll at 15,000 in what Moscow describes as an operation necessitated by threats to its security. Those deemed to discredit its armed forces are subject to prosecution.
Russian opposition politician Yevgeny Roizman was shown being detained at his home in a video released by state news agency RIA on Wednesday. “The main thing is that I called the war a war. That’s all,” he said as he was led away. Read more
Moscow has installed officials in the regions of Ukraine it controls, but some have been murdered. The head of the town of Mykhailivka in the Russian-controlled part of the Zaporizhzhia region was killed by a car bomb on Wednesday.
Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991 after a failed coup by Communist extremists in Moscow, and its people voted overwhelmingly for independence in a December referendum.
THE HOPES OF NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
Both sides accused the other of firing missiles and artillery at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, the largest in Europe, raising fears of a nuclear catastrophe.
International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi said the UN nuclear watchdog hoped to have access within days if negotiations were successful. The United Nations has called for the demilitarization of the area. Read more
Advanced US missile systems appear to have helped Ukraine strike deep 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 the south 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’s Defense Ministry on Twitter.
“The top five causes of sudden explosions in Russia are: winter, spring, summer, autumn and smoking,” he said.
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Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Max Hunder, Andrea Shalal, Olzhas Auyezov, John Chalmers and Reuters bureaus; written by Stephen Coates and Philippa Fletcher; Editing by Jon Boyle, Catherine Evans and Gareth Jones
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