Ukraine marks Independence Day while bracing for Russian attacks

Today marks six months since Russia’s invasion and 31 years of freedom from the Soviet Union

Ukraine Independence Day celebrations in Kyiv
People celebrating Ukraine's independence day in Kyiv
(Image credit: Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Ukraine is commemorating its Independence Day with muted celebrations as it braces for possible Russian attacks.

Wednesday marks 31 years since Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union but it is also six months to the day since Russia’s invasion, which has killed thousands of civilians and military personnel.

Large Independence Day celebrations have been banned by the Ukrainian government due to fears of further Russian bombardments, with the annual parade through the streets of the capital Kyiv replaced by “wrecked and captured Russian military vehicles including tanks”, said CNN.

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The US State Department warned on Tuesday that it had information that Russia could step up its attacks on civilian and government buildings in Ukrainian cities in the coming days.

The tense atmosphere in Kyiv this week has been a “rare blip in the apparent rapid recovery” of the capital, said Dan Sabbagh in The Guardian. Since the Russian army’s failed capture of the city in March, Kyiv has been “bustling” with a “deceptive” sense of normality. That “sense of normalcy is fragile” as the war continues to rage further east and south, said The New York Times.

The mood in Kyiv this week has been “sombre”, with tightened security and residents, who have not seen an attack by Russian missiles since April, asked to pay “​​special attention” to air-raid sirens.

Zelenskyy remains defiant

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy remained defiant amid the warnings of intensified Russian attacks, declaring that any “disgusting Russian provocations and brutal strikes” would be met with a “strong response”.

In a video address aired on Independence Day, Zelenskyy told citizens that Ukraine was “reborn” when Russia invaded on 24 February, adding that the country is now aiming for a triumphant end to the war. “We used to say: peace,” he said. “Now we say: victory.”

Ukraine has increased its assault on Russia in occupied areas in recent weeks, particularly in the annexed Crimean Peninsula, where the army has been “waging a series of hit-and-run attacks on Russian targets”, reported The New York Times. Fears of a violent retaliation were raised on Monday after Russia accused Ukraine’s special services of being behind the killing of Darya Dugina, the daughter of an ultra-nationalist Russian.

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Richard Windsor is a freelance writer for The Week Digital. He began his journalism career writing about politics and sport while studying at the University of Southampton. He then worked across various football publications before specialising in cycling for almost nine years, covering major races including the Tour de France and interviewing some of the sport’s top riders. He led Cycling Weekly’s digital platforms as editor for seven of those years, helping to transform the publication into the UK’s largest cycling website. He now works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant.