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As Ukrainian Independence Day approaches, Zelensky fears Russian provocation

The Ukrainian president on Saturday evening called on his compatriots to be vigilant in the face of the risk of seeing Moscow undertake « something particularly disgusting » as August 24 approaches, a doubly symbolic day: this date will mark both the entry into the seventh month of war as the 31st anniversary of Ukraine’s independence after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Russia could « do something particularly disgusting » and « cruel » next week in Ukraine, when the latter will celebrate its Independence Day on August 24, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned on Saturday August 20.

« One of the key objectives of the enemy is to humiliate us », to « sow despondency, fear and conflict », but « we must be strong enough to resist any provocation » and « to make the occupiers pay for their terror », he declared in his traditional address to his compatriots.

This warning came as Russian television channels are abuzz with calls for revenge against the authorities in kyiv after the assassination on Saturday night in the Moscow region of Daria Dougina, daughter of Russian ultranationalist ideologue Alexander Dugin, eurasian theorist and supporter of the annexation of Ukraine.

Russian investigators have said for the moment that they are not ruling out any leads after the explosion of the car driven by Daria Douguina, while Ukrainian officials have denied any responsibility.

« Russia is an archaic state that binds its actions to certain dates, it’s a kind of obsession. They hate us and will try to increase (…) the number of bombings of our cities, including kyiv, with cruise missiles,” presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak told Interfax-Ukraine.

In this context, the kyiv authorities announced on Sunday the ban on all public gatherings from August 22 to 25 in the capital. The governor of the Kharkiv region announced on Saturday a long curfew planned from the evening of August 23 to the morning of August 25.

Call for restraint around the Zaporijjia power plant

Almost seven months after the outbreak of war, the Russian offensive continues on the ground. In the Kharkiv region, a woman has been killed and two other civilians have been injured since Saturday evening in Russian shelling, the regional prosecutor’s office said on Sunday. Russia also said it fired five Kalibr cruise missiles at weapons warehouses near the port of Odessa in the south of the country.

During the night from Saturday to Sunday, the Russian army again bombarded Nikopol, which faces the Zaporijjia power station, on the other bank of the Dnieper river. According to the governor of the region, Valentin Reznitchenko, at least 25 shells fell on the city.

The American, French, German and British leaders called on Sunday for « restraint » around this nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, occupied by the Russian army.

Presidents Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron as well as Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spoke by telephone, also requested the « rapid » dispatch to the site of a mission of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy (IAEA), according to a joint press release.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday authorized an IAEA inspection of the site, occupied since March by Russian forces. The continuation of the fighting in this area, for which Moscow and kyiv reject responsibility, raises fears of an accident.

With AFP and Reuters

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