Ukrainian capital bans Independence Day festivities, fearing Russian attack

  • Moscow could try ‘something particularly ugly’, says Zelenskiy
  • Russia accuses Ukraine of killing ultra-nationalists in Moscow
  • The UN says 5,587 civilians have been killed in the conflict so far

KYIV, Aug 22 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s capital Kyiv this week banned public celebrations commemorating independence from Soviet rule, citing an increased threat of Russian attack in a war that the United Nations says has killed nearly of 5,600 civilians, many of them children.

Near the front lines in the south of the country, Ukraine says Russia fired rockets at several towns north and west of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, captured by Russian forces soon after having invaded Ukraine in February.

Artillery and rocket fire near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor complex on the southern bank of the Dnipro River led to calls for the demilitarization of the area. Ukrainians living near the plant have expressed fear that shells could hit one of the plant’s six reactors, with potentially disastrous consequences.

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“Of course we are worried. … It’s like we’re sitting on a powder keg,” said Alexander Lifirenko, a resident of the nearby town of Enerhodar, now under the control of pro-Moscow forces. Read more

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has warned that Moscow may attempt “something particularly ugly” ahead of the 31st anniversary of independence on Wednesday, which also marks six months since the invasion of Russia. Read more

Kyiv is far from the front lines and has rarely been hit by Russian missiles since Ukrainian troops repelled a Russian ground offensive to seize the capital in March.

But authorities in Kyiv have banned public events related to the anniversary from Monday to Thursday due to the possibility of further rocket attacks, according to a document.

Other jurisdictions have also restricted public gatherings. In Kharkiv, a northeastern city that has suffered frequent and deadly long-range artillery and rocket fire, Mayor Ihor Terekhov announced an extension of the night curfew from 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. from Tuesday to Thursday .

In the port of Mykolaiv, near Russian-held territory to the south, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said authorities were planning a precautionary order for residents to work from home on Tuesday and Wednesday and urged people not to gather in large groups.

In an evening speech, Zelenskiy called for new punitive measures against Russia from Europe, which is bracing for energy shortages after Moscow announced a three-day halt to some gas flows to the continent in apparent retaliation for European Union sanctions.

Russia denies this, blaming the cuts on the sanctions themselves and various technical issues.

“[The] the only question is how many lives Russia can take before the reaction of the international community becomes truly tangible for those responsible,” Zelenskiy said in a video address Monday night.

BRIDGE ATTACKED

Fears of an escalation in the attacks grew after Russia’s Federal Security Service on Monday accused Ukrainian agents of killing Darya Dugina, daughter of a Russian ultra-nationalist ideologue, in a car bomb attack near Moscow, which President Vladimir Putin called “diabolical”. Ukraine denies any involvement. Read more

The two sides have traded blame over frequent bombings of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, where Kyiv accuses Moscow of basing troops and stockpiling military equipment. Russia denies this and accuses Ukraine of targeting Zaporizhzhia with drones.

During the night, Russian forces fired rockets at the nearby towns of Nikopol, Krivyi Rih and Synelnykovskyi, the region’s regional governor, Valentyn Reznichenko, wrote on Telegram.

Moscow has called for a UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday to discuss the Zaporizhzhia plant, Russian news agency RIA reported, citing Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy. Read more

To the south, new fighting and explosions were reported in Russian-occupied Kherson and the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014.

In Kherson, the only bridge over the strategic Dnipro river was hit by high-precision HIMARS rockets supplied to Ukraine by the United States, injuring 15 people, a source from the occupied Kherson emergency services told AFP. Russian news agency Interfax.

The bridge, a key passage for Russian military transport in the region, was repeatedly targeted by Ukrainian forces as they staged a counteroffensive to retake the Kherson region. An adviser to the Kyiv Interior Ministry said smoke was rising from the bridge.

Russian media reported explosions in the Crimean city of Sevastopol. The city’s governor, appointed by the Russians, said an anti-aircraft defense system had been triggered nearby. Crimea has been rocked by a series of explosions in recent weeks, including an explosion at an ammunition depot that Moscow has blamed on saboteurs.

Reuters was unable to independently verify either party’s battlefield reports.

CIVIL TOLL

Russia launched on February 24 what it calls a “special military operation” to demilitarize its small neighbor and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and its Western backers accuse Moscow of waging an imperial-style war of conquest.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, citing its monitoring mission in Ukraine, said on Monday that 5,587 civilians had been killed and 7,890 injured between February 24 and August 21, mainly as a result of artillery, rocket and missile attacks.

UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, said at least 972 children have been killed or injured in the six-month war.

“The use of explosive weapons caused most casualties among children. These weapons do not discriminate between civilians and combatants, especially when used in populated areas as has been the case in Ukraine” , the agency’s executive director, Catherine Russell, said in a statement. statement.

Separately, General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi – the Kyiv army chief – provided what appeared to be the first public Ukrainian military death toll, claiming that nearly 9,000 soldiers had died in combat.

Russia did not say how many of its soldiers were killed. The Ukrainian General Staff put the number of Russian military dead at 45,400.

Reuters was unable to verify military casualties.

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Reporting by Ron Popeski and Natalia Zinets; Written by Himani Sarkar, Mark Heinrich, Nick Macfie and Rami Ayyub; Editing by Stephen Coates, Hugh Lawson, Catherine Evans and Cynthia Osterman

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Christi C. Elwood