By Rostyslav Averchuk
Lviv, Ukraine, Aug 24 (EFE).- Ukraine celebrated its Independence Day on Wednesday amid tension, the fear of new Russian attacks after recent Ukrainian operations on the Crimean Peninsula – annexed by Moscow in 2014 – and six months after the start of the Russian invasion.
Just as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had asked, there were no large celebrations, given the prevailing fear that Russia has been preparing something “especially cruel” to commemorate the 31st anniversary of Ukraine’s independence from the now defunct Soviet Union.
Early Wednesday morning, Zelenskyy issued Independence Day greetings to the nation and said that Ukraine will not initiate peace talks with the Kremlin out of fear.
“What for us is the end of the war? We used to say: peace. Now we say: victory. We will not seek a (peace) accord with terrorists,” the Ukrainian leader said.
He added that his country’s people had “inspired the whole world” with their courage and had given humanity “new hope that justice has not left our cynical world forever.”
But he added that “Russian provocations and brutal strikes are a possibility.”
Zelenskyy also directed virtual remarks to the United Nations Security Council after Moscow had failed to obtain the necessary support to prevent him from addressing the body.
Referring to the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the Ukrainian leader called on the International Atomic Energy Agency to take “permanent control” of the center and insisted that “Russia must unconditionally end nuclear blackmail and completely withdraw from the plant.”
“The future of the world is being decided in Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said, warning that if Russia wins the conflict, it will “probably” expand the war to other countries. “Now everyone can see how much the world depends on our independence,” he added.
The Ukrainian leader on Wednesday once again welcomed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to Kyiv on a surprise visit. It was his third trip to the country since the start of the Russian invasion and was designed to show the British government’s support for Ukraine.
Johnson announced the delivery to Ukraine of an additional package of 2,000 drones and missiles valued at 64 million euros ($63.8 million), saying that he believes Ukraine “can and will win this war” in a message he sent via Twitter.
While Johnson was meeting with officials in Kyiv, the residents of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv seemed to be following Zelenskyy’s recommendations warning that Russian forces could stage attacks at any time and needed no special occasion to do so.
The number of people on the streets in Lviv was similar to any other summer day, although the number of flags and t-shirts with the national colors worn by many passersby showed that it was indeed a special day.
“On this day you feel something special. Now, we know better what the price of our freedom and independence is,” one of the local residents told EFE in a crowd gathered at the regional administration building for a small symbolic event.
Anyone could join the event to paint a poster with the colors of the Ukrainian flag or to write words of thanks and encouragement on several flags that will be sent to the country’s troops at the front.
Shortly after the event ended, an air raid alarm sounded. During the day, air raid alarms have been sounding with unusual frequency all across Ukraine.
Just in Lviv, the sirens had been heard five times as of 5 pm.
In addition, a series of explosions was reported at or near military infrastructure in the city of Myrhorod, in central Ukraine. One missile was intercepted in Cherkasy province, while explosions were reported in Khmelnytskyi, a region that so far has rarely been the target of Russian attacks.
In a rather unusual taped speech, a top Ukrainian military officer, Valeri Zaluzhny, compared the taste of independence with the “taste of the ground that sticks in your skin, the taste of the blood that fills the air, the salty taste of tears,” and expressed his thanks to all of Ukraine’s defenders.