US warns of further Russian attacks on Ukrainian capital in coming days

Latest warning comes as Ukraine was set to mark 31 years of independence from Soviet rule on Wednesday

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KYIV — The United States on Tuesday urged its citizens to leave Ukraine, saying it believed Russia was preparing to target civilian and government infrastructure in the coming days as the war reached the six-month mark.

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The warning follows the Ukrainian government’s ban on celebrations in the capital Kyiv on the anniversary of independence from Soviet rule on Wednesday due to fears of attacks.

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Leaders of dozens of countries and international organizations were due to participate in the so-called Crimea Platform in solidarity with Ukraine on Tuesday on the sixth anniversary of the Russian invasion. Most would do it by video.

On the battlefield, Russian forces carried out artillery and airstrikes in the Zaporizhzhia region of southeastern Ukraine, where fighting took place near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant , said the Ukrainian army.

But six months after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, and with thousands dead and the widespread destruction of cities, the conflict is at an impasse.

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Russian forces control much of the south, including along the Black Sea coast, and parts of the eastern Donbass region. Prospects for peace seem almost non-existent.

Fearing an upsurge in Russian attacks, the US Embassy in Kyiv on Tuesday urged US citizens to leave if they could.

“The State Department has information that Russia is intensifying its efforts to launch strikes against civilian infrastructure and government facilities in Ukraine in the coming days,” the embassy said in a statement.

US citizens should leave Ukraine “now” on their own if it was safe to do so, he said.

While this isn’t the first time the United States has issued such a warning, it came as Ukraine was set to mark 31 years of independence from Soviet rule on Wednesday.

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It also followed the murder of Darya Dugina, the daughter of a prominent Russian ultra-nationalist, in a car bomb attack near Moscow on Saturday. Moscow blamed the killing on Ukrainian agents, a charge Kyiv denies.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also said Moscow might try “something particularly ugly” ahead of Wednesday’s anniversary.

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

The mood in the city remained calm on Tuesday, with many people still roaming the streets with smiling faces, but signs of increased threat were felt.

Authorities have told Ukrainians across the country to work from home where possible Tuesday through Thursday, also urging people to take air raid warnings seriously and seek shelter when sirens sound.

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The Kyiv city administration has banned large public gatherings until Thursday, fearing that a crowd of celebrating residents could become the target of a Russian missile strike.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters, was in the capital on Tuesday to discuss additional support for Ukraine with Zelenskyy, including military aid.

Russian shelling hit the eastern city of Kharkiv – Ukraine’s second-largest city – around dawn on Tuesday, regional governor Oleh Synehubov said. A house was hit but no one was injured, he said.

In the south, Ukraine said Russia fired artillery and staged airstrikes at several towns in the Zaporizhzhia region, where Russian forces captured the nuclear power plant soon after the invasion began.

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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.

The two sides traded blame on the frequent bombings of the factory. Kyiv accuses Moscow of basing troops there and storing military equipment there. Russia denies this and accuses Ukraine of attacking Zaporizhzhia with drones.

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.

In a separate action, Ukrainian forces on Tuesday shelled a building housing the local government headquarters in the center of the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, TASS news agency reported, citing Russian-installed officials. . Three people were killed, he said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said its forces shot down a Ukrainian SU-27 fighter jet over the Kharkiv region.

Russia has sent its troops over the border in what it calls a “special military operation”, saying it wants to demilitarize its neighbor and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Moscow of waging an unwarranted war of aggression.

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Christi C. Elwood