Defiant Ukraine marks Independence Day six months after invasion

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Ukraine was “reborn” when Russia invaded six months ago, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday, marking 31 years of his country’s inde-pendence from the Moscow-controlled Soviet Union with a vow to drive Russian forces out completely.

After days of warnings that Moscow could use the anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence Day to launch more missile attacks on major cities, Kyiv was unusually quiet and the second biggest city Kharkiv was under curfew after months of bombardment.

The anniversary fell exactly six months after Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine. In an emotional speech to his compatriots, Zelenskiy said the attack had revived the nation’s spirit.

“A new nation appeared in the world on Feb. 24 at 4 in the morning. It was not born, but reborn. A nation that did not cry, scream or take fright. One that did not flee. Did not give up. And did not forget,” he said.

The 44-year-old leader, speaking in front of Kyiv’s central monument to independence in his trademark combat fatigues, vowed to recapture oc-cupied areas of eastern Ukraine as well as the Cri-mean peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

“What for us is the end of the war? We used to say: peace. Now we say: victory,” he said, days after his government laid out the hulks of burnt-out Rus-sian tanks and armoured vehicles in central Kyiv in a show of defiance.

Russia’s war effort in Ukraine has made little progress in recent months, after its troops were pushed back from Kyiv in the early weeks of the war.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told a meeting of defence ministers in Uzbekistan that Russia had deliberately slowed down what it refers to as its “special military operation” in Ukraine to avoid civilian casualties.

On Tuesday evening, Zelenskiy warned of the possibility of “repugnant Russian provocations”. “We are fighting against the most terrible threat to our statehood and also at a time when we have achieved the greatest level of national unity,” Zelenskiy said.

Ukraine’s military urged people to take air raid warnings seriously. “Russian occupiers continue to carry out air and missile attacks on civilian objects on the territory of Ukraine. Do not ignore air raid signals,” the General Staff said in a statement on Wednesday.

Zelenskiy told representatives of about 60 coun-tries and international organisations attending a virtual summit on Crimea on Tuesday that Ukraine would drive Russian forces out of the peninsula by any means necessary, without consulting other countries beforehand.

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 is largely at a standstill with no immediate prospect of peace talks.

As well as Crimea, Russian forces have seized areas of the south including the Black Sea and Sea of Azov coasts, and chunks of the eastern Donbas region comprising the provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk.—Reuters

 

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