President Volodymyr Zelensky announced a deadly attack on a train station on Wednesday, the country’s independence day, as he pledged Ukraine would fight “to the end” on the date that marks six months war.
Washington separately warned that Moscow was preparing to hold “fake” referendums in occupied regions of Ukraine seeking to formalize its control.
The Russian missile attack on Chaplino station, in central Dnipropetrovsk, killed 22 people, he said. In an earlier figure, he said 15 people had died and 50 others were injured.
“Chaplino is our pain today. Up to this point, 22 people have died, including 5 people burned in cars. One young man died, he was 11 years old, a Russian rocket destroyed his house,” he said in his daily speech. .
Zelensky is speaking on the day the country celebrates its 1991 independence from the Soviet Union – and on a day that marks six months since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the military to invade.
Over the weekend, he warned that Russia could do something “especially cruel” on Ukraine’s independence day.
In Washington, a senior official warned that Russia could start announcing referendums designed to formalize control of the occupied areas as soon as this week.
“The Russian leadership has instructed officials to prepare for a mock referendum,” said White House national security coordinator John Kirby.
“Actually, we could see the Russian announcement of the first or the first ones before the end of this week.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to Kyiv, praising Ukraine’s six-month resistance, as sirens sounded throughout the day.
Mr Johnson said that Putin failed to explain the “strong will of the Ukrainian people to resist”.
“You defend the right to live in peace, in freedom, and that’s why Ukraine will win,” he added.
Earlier, the Ukrainian leader gave his own defiant morning video address, declaring: “We don’t care what army you have, we only care about our land. We will fight to the end.”
Referring to Russia, he vowed Ukraine “will not try to seek understanding with terrorists”.
“For us, Ukraine is the whole of Ukraine,” he said. “All 25 regions, without any concessions or compromises.”
– New aid –
Meanwhile, the US announced new military aid worth $3 billion.
The new funding will help Kyiv to arm its armed forces, which are caught in a fierce war of attrition with Russian troops to the east and south, with neither side making significant progress. tell.
Johnson unveiled his own £54 million ($64 million) aid package, which includes 2,000 “advanced drones” as well as anti-tank ammunition.
Prohibited gatherings in the capitals Kyiv and Zelensky have urged people to be on the lookout for “Russian terrorism”.
However, he and his wife marked a minute of silence for the fallen Ukrainian soldiers and placed bouquets of yellow and blue flowers at a memorial in central Kyiv.
Johnson’s visit was accompanied by other messages of support from Ukraine’s allies.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the anniversary of Russia’s start of the war in Ukraine a “sad and tragic milestone”.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU has stood with Ukraine “from the beginning” and “will last if ever”.
Even Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus, congratulated Ukraine on Independence Day, comments that were denied by a spokesman for Ukraine’s presidency.
Belarus has offered its territory as a staging ground for the Russian invasion.
– Mute Memories –
During the early days and weeks of the Russian invasion, Kyiv was surrounded by Russian troops advancing on the outskirts of the capital.
The Moscow offensive quickly faltered, and its forces withdrew at the end of March to regroup for attacks on eastern and southern Ukraine.
But in the capital, Ukrainians are very gloomy about the anniversary.
“Six months, the peace of life has been broken in every family,” Nina, an 80-year-old pensioner, said on Independence Square on Tuesday.
“How much destruction, how much death, how can it be related?” she asked.
The capital’s government closed public service centers on Wednesday and Thursday, and shopping malls said they would close on the anniversary because of safety concerns.
In central Kyiv, however, crowds of people inspected dozens of disabled Russian tanks, trucks and armored vehicles installed near the government compound to showcase Ukraine’s military might.
The floss candy vendors sold it to curious tourists, who looked down at the tank and posed for selfies, which were hung with the Ukrainian flag.
Discussions continued on how to protect the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine, occupied by Russian troops and threatened by shelling, which Moscow blamed on Kyiv.
The two sides exchanged allegations at Tuesday’s meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Zaporizhzhia.
Ukraine and its allies have demanded that Russia withdraw its troops from the plant – Europe’s largest nuclear facility – and agree to build a demilitarized zone.
And on Wednesday, the head of Russia’s state nuclear energy agency met with the head of the IAEA to follow up on the expected inspection.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a collaborative feed.)