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Fearing Russian rocket attacks, Ukraine forbids Independence Day demonstrations


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August 22, KYIV – According to local authorities, Ukraine’s capital Kyiv forbade public celebrations this week honoring the country’s independence from the Russian-dominated Soviet Union, and its second-largest city Kharkiv imposed a curfew because of an increased risk of Russian attack.

Ukraine claimed that Russia launched rockets into a number of southern Ukrainian towns north and west of the continent’s largest nuclear power plant, which was taken by Russian forces shortly after their invasion of Ukraine in February.

On the Russian-occupied south bank of the Dnipro River, artillery and rocket fire near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor complex has sparked fears of a nuclear disaster and prompted calls for the area to be demilitarized.

On February 24, Russia began what it refers to as a “special military operation” to demilitarize its smaller neighbor and defend Russian-speaking areas. Moscow is accused of waging an imperial-style war of conquest by Ukraine and its Western backers.

Prior to Ukraine’s 31st anniversary of independence from Russian-dominated Soviet rule on Wednesday, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine issued a warning over the weekend about the possibility of additional serious attacks.

According to a document released by the Kyiv military administration and signed by its head Mykola Zhyrnov, large public events, rallies, and other gatherings related to the anniversary will not be permitted in the capital from Monday through Thursday due to the possibility of rocket attacks.

The mayor of Kharkiv in the northeast, Ihor Terekhov, has extended a regular overnight curfew to run from 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. starting on Tuesday and lasting through Thursday. Kharkiv has been subject to frequent and deadly long-range Russian bombardment.

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In the port city of Mykolaiv, which is close to Russian-occupied territory to the south, regional governor Vitaly Kim urged people not to congregate in large groups and said authorities were preparing a precautionary order for residents to work from home on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In his nightly video address on Saturday, Zelenskiy warned that in the days leading up to Wednesday, which also happens to be the halfway point since Russia’s invasion, Moscow might try “something particularly ugly.”

He claimed that he had spoken with his French counterpart about “all the threats,” and that he had also informed other world leaders, such as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. View More

In his nightly video address, Zelenskiy said of Russia, “All of Ukraine’s partners have been informed about what the terrorist state can prepare for this week.”

Erdogan attempted to facilitate communication, according to Gennady Gatilov, the Russian ambassador to the UN in Geneva, who was quoted by The Financial Times in a piece that was published on Sunday.

However, he denied rumors that Zelenskiy and Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed meeting, claiming that there was no “practical platform for doing so,” according to the report.

Nuclear risk

In recent weeks, there have been numerous instances of shelling in and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor complex, which is located on the south bank of the Dnipro River that is occupied by Russia.

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Moscow has been charged by Kyiv with stationing troops and storing military hardware on the grounds of the power plant and using it as a launching pad for attacks on areas to the west and north that are governed by the Ukrainian government. Russia disputes this and claims that Ukraine has been using drones and shells to attack the plant.

According to regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko on Telegram, Russian forces fired rockets into Nikopol overnight on Monday, which is located directly across the Dnipro from the plant on its south bank, as well as the farther-out Krivyi Rih and Synelnykovskyi neighborhoods in the northwest and northeast, respectively.

In addition, Ukraine reported that Russia had launched a missile attack on Voznesensk, which is southwest of the nation’s second-largest nuclear power plant.

In a phone call on Sunday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and US President Joe Biden emphasized the significance of protecting the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear installations.

They affirmed their “steadfast commitment” to support Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion and welcomed recent discussions on enabling a mission by the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency to Zaporizhzhia. View More

The war, which is the largest to affect Europe since World War Two, has destroyed towns and cities, claimed thousands of lives, driven millions of people from their homes, and widened the geopolitical rift between Russia and the West.

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The fighting has been concentrated in the east and south where frontlines have been largely static for weeks since Ukraine successfully repelled a Russian attempt to capture Kyiv early in the conflict.

The General Staff of Ukraine reported on Monday that Russian forces had made minor gains toward Mykolaiv in the Blahodnatne region.

Along with the nearby Luhansk city that Moscow’s forces earlier in the summer captured, Pisky, Bakhmut, and Kramatorsk are important towns in the Donetsk province and together with them make up the eastern Donbas region. Russia was also attempting to regain momentum in these directions.

According to an update from the Ukrainian military command, Russian artillery and multiple rocket launcher systems bombarded the towns of Soledar, Zaytseve, and Bilohorivka close to Bakhmut.

The local government reported that at least two civilians died. Russian officials deny targeting civilians.

The battlefield reports could not be independently verified by Reuters.

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