The Guardian - Isobel Koshiw and Emma Graham-Harrison in Kyiv - Wed 24 Aug 2022 13.53 BST
Kyiv celebrations were cancelled over concerns of ‘Russian provocations’ as the US expected to announce a further $3bn in aid
Air raid sirens sounded across Ukrainian-controlled territory as the country marked six months since Moscow’s invasion on a sombre independence day, overshadowed by warnings of “brutal” attacks.
The US is expected to announce a further $3bn in much-needed aid, and senior politicians from across Europe travelled to Kyiv to show their support in person, despite security warnings including a US call for its citizens to leave the country.
It is 31 years since Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union, and six months to the day since Russia launched a war that aimed to reverse that step away from Moscow’s control.
Many in the capital on Wednesday were taking stock of both their achievements and losses. Few outside Ukraine, even among its allies, expected the country to hold off Russia’s army so effectively, including in a decisive victory outside Kyiv.
But the country has paid a terrible human price for its success so far. Thousands of civilians have been killed since the war began on 24 February, while Ukraine has acknowledged 9,000 military deaths, millions have lost their homes or been forced into exile, and there is little hope that an end to the fighting is in sight.
“I’m constantly worried and praying that our skies remain blue and I understand that people are giving their lives for this,” said Yana Pasychnyk, a choral singer in one of Ukraine’s national choirs. She was heading home after performing at Kyiv’s St Sofia Cathedral this morning.
“As I’m speaking to you now I have goosebumps. People I know, my godson even, are fighting at the front. There’s no celebration today. I can’t even believe that this is happening,”
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, told his fellow citizens that their country was reborn when Russia invaded, in a speech recorded on the steps of the capital’s monument to independence and aired on the morning of the anniversary.
“A new nation appeared in the world on February 24 at four 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.
He pledged to keep fighting until Ukraine had recaptured annexed Crimea and occupied areas in the east. “What for us is the end of the war? We used to say peace. Now we say victory.”
Meanwhile, the Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, claimed that the slowing pace of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine was deliberate, and driven by the need to reduce civilian casualties.
Shoigu said: “Everything is being done to avoid casualties among civilians. Of course, this slows down the pace of the offensive, but we are doing this deliberately.”
Zelensky had warned on the eve of the holiday that Ukraine might face “repugnant Russian provocations”, and urged citizens to take seriously any air raid warnings – often ignored by a population now inured to the risks of war.
The US had urged its citizens to leave the country, although the embassy remained open and the ambassador, Bridget Brink, promised a commitment to the fight against Moscow.
“I stand in awe of your steadfast defence of our shared values. The United States will stand together with you for as long as it takes,” she said.
That promise is expected to be backed later in the day by the announcement of a fresh $3bn security assistance package for Ukraine, the Associated Press reported. It will aim to help secure the country’s medium- to long-term defence in what has become a grinding war of attrition.
As air raid sirens sounded across the entire country, putting Ukraine on alert, the latest news came through of partisan warfare that has been so successful behind Russian lines.
A car bomb killed the Russian-installed head of the town of Mykhailivka, in an occupied part of the southern Zaporizhzhia region, on Tuesday, a Russian official from the local administration said.
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Zelensky also celebrated national unity, which has been bolstered by a powerful government messaging campaign.
“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,” Zelensky said.
A display of destroyed Russian tanks and other military equipment on the main street of the capital replaced the usual military parade through the centre of Kyiv, cancelled over fears that such a symbolic day could see fresh attacks.
It was both a celebration of Ukraine’s military success and a trolling of Moscow’s expectations of a quick victory; it had sent some soldiers to battle with parade uniforms which they had expected to use in Kyiv.
Drones will fly a giant national flag over the capital, which is largely locked down, with increased security and people who have been returning to their offices in the centre urged to work from home.
Alex Rodnyansky, a presidential adviser, said many civilians were trying to leave the city because of fears it could be targeted. Andriy Yusov, a senior intelligence official, said Russia and Vladimir Putin’s regime “are really obsessed with dates and symbols, so it would be logical to be on the lookout and be prepared for independence day”.
There has been particular concern about how the Russian military is managing Europe’s largest nuclear plant, in Zaporizhzhia, which they seized in March, amid warnings they might be planning a risky move to disconnect it from the Ukrainian power grid.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday it could visit within days “if ongoing negotiations succeed”. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) wants to assess safety and security at the plant, which both sides accuse the other of shelling.
There was a show of international support, including visits to the capital by a coalition of European politicians.
“Here in Kyiv we’re in shelters after being woken by the air raid siren,” the British MP and former Conservative leadership hopeful Tom Tugendhat wrote on Twitter. “I’m in Kyiv with 30 representatives from across Europe to show our support for Ukraine and stand against Putin’s illegal invasion.”
Reuters contributed to this report
I write from Ukraine, where I've spent much of the past six months, reporting on the build-up to the conflict and the grim reality of war. It has been the most intense time of my 30-year career. In December I visited the trenches outside Donetsk with the Ukrainian army; in January I went to Mariupol and drove along the coast to Crimea; on 24 February I was with other colleagues in the Ukrainian capital as the first Russian bombs fell.
This is the biggest war in Europe since 1945. It is, for Ukrainians, an existential struggle against new but familiar Russian imperialism. Our team of reporters and editors intend to cover this war for as long as it lasts, however expensive that may prove to be. We are committed to telling the human stories of those caught up in war, as well as the international dimension.
But we can't do this without the support of Guardian readers. It is your passion, engagement and financial contributions which underpin our independent journalism and make it possible for us to report from places like Ukraine.
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*Follow the WEF trail to Switzerland to discover the Khazarian Mafia hiding behind Klaus Schwab and his cohorts. The US and its people have nothing to do with the disasters caused to the ordinary people of the Earth.
The Khazarians have once again constructed an intricate web, whose aim is to destroy the world's economy by setting people up against each other, blocking each other's supply chains, leaving just death and ruins.
What everybody must be aware of is that this is not a war to prevent Putin from occupying Ukraine, but an attempt by the evil Khazarian Jews/WEF/NATO to control yet another country in their growing New World Order. They are simply using Ukraine as a battlefield. Their plan is to destroy totally the world's economy and turn the population into slaves.
Like the Freemasons, they have also life-threatening rules in their membership, one being REVENGE, 10 times harder than was ever perpetrated on them.
Russia in particular, in the past, has expelled the Khazars several times. I have all of 7 detailed articles in book format on the Khazarian Jews if anybody is interested in further information.
Putin, and earlier also Trump, are the ONLY Presidents who have enough guts to see what they are attempting to do to the world population and have sufficient courage to do something about it.
The bottom line is for the people to regain their original, moral principles, which have intentionally been watered out over the past generations by our press, TV, and other media owned by the Illuminati/Bilderberger Group, corrupting our morals by making misbehavior acceptable to our society. Only in this way shall we conquer this oncoming wave of evil.
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