Zelensky challenges Russia six months into the war

In a speech released on August 24, six months into the conflict coinciding with Independence Day from Soviet rule, the president of Ukraine promised to recover the territories temporarily occupied by Russia. The president emphasized that, to do so, his country “will not make any concessions” to foreign troops. The big celebrations are suspended for fear of a resurgence of attacks from Moscow.

Ukraine commemorates Independence Day six months after the start of the war.

Residents of kyiv woke up to sirens warning of Russian air strikes on August 24 amid a holiday that commemorates Ukraine’s declaration of separation from the Soviet Union in 1991.

But the date also recalls that exactly six months ago the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, ordered the invasion of his neighboring country. In a recorded speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky challenged the Kremlin, saying his nation will fight “until the end” to win back his land.

Moscow occupies about 22% of Ukrainian soil, including the province of Crimea, annexed by the Putin government in 2014.

“We have been holding on for six months. It is hard, but we have clenched our fists and are fighting for our destiny (…) For us, Ukraine is the whole of Ukraine. The 25 regions, without concessions or compromises,” he remarked.

Zelensky specifically referred to retaking the entire Donbass region, in the east of the country and in the hands of the separatists, as well as Crimea, the strategic port region in the south with access to the Black Sea and which has allowed Moscow a greater gas supply control.

“This flag must be flown everywhere it has a right to be. In Donbass, in Crimea. The enemy thought we would greet him with flowers and champagne, but instead he received flower crowns and Molotov cocktails. They expected a cheer but there were explosions. The occupier believed that he would parade through the center of our capital. You can witness this ‘parade’ today on Khreshchatyk street. Proof that the enemy team can only appear in the center of kyiv looking like this: burned and destroyed,” he said, referring to the destroyed Russian tanks and mobile artillery on display in the capital since the weekend.

Likewise, the head of state openly ruled out a solution to the conflict through peace talks, a process that took place in the first months of the war, but was unsuccessful.

“What is the end of the war for us? We used to say: peace. Now we say: victory. We are not going to try to get along with the terrorists,” he emphasized.

For the president, Ukraine was “reborn” after the Russian invasion. “A new nation appeared in the world on February 24, at 4 in the morning. It was not born, but reborn. A nation that did not cry, or scream, or get scared. One that did not run away. It did not give up. And it did not forgot,” he stressed.

“This is not a war. It is the destruction of the Ukrainian people.”

Last year, crowds flocked to kyiv to watch a military parade marking the 30th anniversary of Ukrainian independence. A panorama that contrasted sharply this Wednesday with only a small number of residents gathered in the central square of the capital. There the national anthem is played every day at 7 in the morning, local time.

Authorities have banned large-scale gatherings until Thursday, August 25, fearing the national holiday could be the focus of further Russian missile attacks.

“I can’t sleep at night from what I see and hear about what is being done in Ukraine (…) This is not a war. It is the destruction of the Ukrainian people,” said a woman who identified herself as Tetyana.

Destroyed Russian military vehicles are displayed in the center of kyiv, Ukraine, on August 24, 2022, as the country marks six months of war, which coincides with the anniversary of its independence from Soviet rule.
Destroyed Russian military vehicles are displayed in the center of kyiv, Ukraine, on August 24, 2022, as the country marks six months of war, which coincides with the anniversary of its independence from Soviet rule. © AP/Evgeny Maloletka

The day before, Zelensky urged the population to be alert to a further intensification of the Russian attacks both in the framework of the commemorations of the country’s sovereignty, and due to Moscow’s promises of revenge after the assassination of the ultra-nationalist, Daria Dúguina .

A crime that kyiv disassociates itself from and that was attributed by an opposition group in Russia. “Russian provocations and brutal attacks are a possibility,” the president said in a statement.

Shoigu says war in Ukraine slowed down ‘deliberately’

The Russian Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, pointed out on Wednesday a slow military action by his troops, which according to his version is due to “an effort to save civilians.”

His remarks came in Uzbekistan, amid a meeting of defense ministers from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security group dominated by Russia and China.

Despite the fact that Moscow troops continually carry out assaults on civilian areas of Ukrainian towns and cities, Shoigu assured that “precision weapons attacks are carried out against the military infrastructure of the Ukrainian armed forces (…) Everything is done to avoid civilian casualties. It certainly slows down the pace of the offense, but we do it deliberately,” he said.

The head of the Kremlin Defense portfolio also criticized Western states for sending military aid to Ukraine. A support for the defenses of the attacked country that according to Moscow is delaying the war.

“The United States and its allies continue to pump weapons into Ukraine, increasing the number of victims and prolonging the conflict,” he said.

US announces $3 billion aid package to Ukraine

US President Joe Biden marked Ukraine’s Independence Day with $3 billion in security assistance, Washington’s largest aid package since the Russian invasion began six months ago.

The additional resources are intended to train and equip Ukrainian forces for the fighting, which the US anticipates will spread in the coming years.

“The United States is committed to standing with the people of Ukraine as they continue to fight to defend their sovereignty,” Biden said in a statement.

The financial package “will allow Ukraine to acquire air defense systems, artillery and ammunition systems, unmanned aerial systems and radars to ensure that it can continue to defend itself in the long term,” the president specified.

However, US officials have indicated that many of those teams will be on the front lines for another year or two.

Now, with the conflict marking exactly 182 days from its start, there is no sign of an end in sight. Europe’s first conflict since the Balkans in the 1990s has become “a war of attrition,” as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg described it.

Russia now owns large swaths of eastern and southern Ukrainian territory, though its gains have built up slowly as the local army resists and fights back.

Around 9,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in these six months, Ukraine’s military chief said this week.

The UN confirms more than 5,500 Ukrainian civilians killed, although the true figure is likely to be much higher.

The United States estimates that at least 75,000 Russian military personnel have lost their lives amid the hostilities, a figure that has not been confirmed by Moscow.

With Reuters, AP and local media

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Written by Editor TLN

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