Ukraine Bans Independence Day Rallies for Fear of Russian Rocket Strikes

Ukraine Bans Independence Day Rallies for Fear of Russian Rocket Strikes
A worker stands on an excavator in front of a destroyed apartment building, that is being demolished, in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on Aug. 21, 2022. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

KYIV—Ukraine’s capital Kyiv banned public celebrations this week to commemorate independence from the former Soviet Union, citing a heightened threat of Russian attack in a war that the United Nations said on Monday has killed more than 5,500 civilians.

Near frontlines in the south of the country, Ukraine said Russia fired rockets into several southern Ukrainian towns north and west of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, captured by Russian forces shortly after they invaded Ukraine in February.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned at the weekend of the risk of more severe attacks ahead of Ukraine’s 31st anniversary on Wednesday of independence from the former Soviet Union

Local authorities in Kyiv have banned large public events, rallies, and other gatherings related to the anniversary from Monday until Thursday due to the possibility of rocket attacks, according to a document published by the Kyiv military administration and signed by its head Mykola Zhyrnov.

In Kharkiv, a northeastern city that has come under frequent and deadly longer-range artillery and rocket fire, Mayor Ihor Terekhov announced an extension to an overnight curfew to run from 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. effective from Tuesday to Thursday.

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

Fears of intensified attacks were likely to rise after Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) blamed Ukrainian secret services on Monday for killing Darya Dugina, daughter of a Russian ultra-nationalist ideologue, in a suspected car bombing on Saturday, Russian news agencies reported. Ukraine has denied being involved.

Zelenskyy, in a weekend video address, said Moscow could try “something particularly ugly” in the run-up to Wednesday, which also marks half a year since Russia invaded.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, citing its monitoring mission in Ukraine, said on Monday 5,587 civilians had been killed and 7,890 injured as of Aug. 21, mainly from artillery, rocket, and missile attacks.

Separately on Monday, General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi—Kyiv’s army chief—provided what appeared to be the first public Ukrainian military death toll, saying nearly 9,000 soldiers had died in action.

Russia has not said how many of its soldiers have been killed.

Reuters has been unable to verify the military losses by either side.

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Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valeriy Zaluzhnyi waits before a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other officials in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Oct. 19, 2021. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

Nuclear Risk

Ukraine and Russia have traded blame for repeated incidents of shelling in and around the premises of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor complex, on the Russian-controlled south bank of the Dnipro River, in recent weeks.

Kyiv has accused Moscow of basing troops and storing military hardware on the grounds of the power station and using it as a shield from which to bombard Kyiv government-controlled territory to the west and north. Russia denies this and accuses Ukraine of targeting the plant with shells and drones.

In a phone call on Sunday, U.S. President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed recent discussions on enabling a mission by the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency to Zaporizhzhia.

By Pavel Polityuk

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