Russian rockets kill 15 at train station on Ukraine’s Independence Day – Zelenskiy

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KYIV – At least 15 people were killed and dozens injured in a Russian rocket strike on a Ukrainian train station on Wednesday, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, as his country marked the anniversary of its independence from Soviet-dominated rule by Moscow.

Zelenskiy warned on Tuesday of the risk of “repugnant Russian provocations” on Independence Day, which coincidentally was also six months since Russian forces invaded Ukraine, sparking the most devastating conflict in Europe since the Second World War.

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In a video address to the United Nations Security Council, Zelenskiy said the rockets hit a train in the small town of Chaplyne, about 145 km (90 miles) west of Russian-occupied Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine. Four cars were on fire, he said.

“To date, at least 15 people have been killed and around 50 people have been injured,” Zelenskiy said. “Rescuers are working, but unfortunately the death toll could increase.”

The Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

NO PUBLIC CELEBRATIONS

August 24 public holiday celebrations were called off, but many Ukrainians marked the occasion by wearing embroidered shirts typical of the national dress.

After days of warnings that Moscow could use Independence Day to fire more missiles at major urban centers, the second-largest city of Kharkiv was under curfew, following months of frequent shelling.

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Air raid sirens sounded at least seven times in the capital Kyiv during the day, although no attacks took place.

In a moving speech to his compatriots earlier today, Zelenskiy said Ukraine was “reborn” when Russia invaded and would eventually drive out Russian forces altogether.

“A new nation appeared in the world on February 24 at 4 a.m. He was not born, but reborn. A nation that didn’t cry, scream or get scared. The one who didn’t run away. Didn’t give up. And I haven’t forgotten,” he said, speaking outside Kyiv’s main independence monument in his signature combat gear.

Zelenskiy and his wife, Olena Zelenska, joined religious leaders for a service in Kyiv’s 11th-century St. Sophia Cathedral and laid flowers in front of a memorial to fallen soldiers.

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The 44-year-old leader said Ukraine would take back Russian-occupied areas in eastern Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.

“We are not going to sit at the negotiating table out of fear, with a gun to our head. For us, the most terrible iron is not missiles, planes and tanks, but chains,” he said.

In its evening update, Ukraine’s army high command said Russian air and missile strikes on military and civilian targets continued until Wednesday. “Today was full of air raid sirens,” he said in a note without giving further details.

MISSILES ATTACH AWAY FROM THE FRONT LINES

Ukrainian forces shot down a Russian drone in the Vinnytsia region while several Russian missiles landed in the Khmelnytskyi region, regional authorities said – both west of Kyiv and hundreds of kilometers from the lines of forehead.

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No damage or casualties were reported and Reuters could not verify the accounts.

Russia has repeatedly denied that its forces were targeting civilian targets. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told a meeting in Uzbekistan that Moscow had deliberately slowed down what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine to avoid civilian casualties.

At a UN Security Council session on Wednesday, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia reiterated Moscow’s justification for its actions in Ukraine, saying a “special operation” was needed to “denazify and demilitarize” the country. countries in order to eliminate “obvious” threats to Russian security.

Moscow’s position has been rejected by Ukraine and the West as a baseless pretext for a war of imperialist conquest.

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INCREASED WESTERN SUPPORT

US President Joe Biden has announced nearly $3 billion for the purchase of arms and equipment from Ukraine as part of “the largest tranche of security assistance from Washington to date”.

During a surprise visit to Kyiv on Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also pledged $63.5 million in additional military support, including 2,000 drones.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Ukrainians they were an inspiration to the world. “You can count on NATO’s support. As long as it takes,” he said in a video message.

Russia has made little progress in recent months after its troops were pushed back from Kyiv in the first weeks of the war.

Ukraine’s top military intelligence official Kyrylo Budanov said on Wednesday that the Russian offensive was slowing down due to moral and physical fatigue in its ranks and Moscow’s “depleted” resource base.

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On the eastern frontlines of the Ukrainian resistance and in devastated towns, some with deserted streets under curfew, fighters and civilians marked the holiday with words of resolve and the promise of victory.

Ukraine declared independence from the disintegrating Soviet Union in August 1991 and its people voted overwhelmingly for independence in a referendum in December.

Russian forces have seized areas in the south, including the Black Sea and Sea of ​​Azov coasts, as well as large swathes of Lugansk and Donetsk provinces that include the eastern Donbass region.

The war has killed thousands of civilians, forced more than a third of Ukraine’s 41 million people from their homes, left cities in ruins and shaken the global economy, creating shortages of essential food grains and driving up prices Energy.

(Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Max Hunder, Andrea Shalal, Olzhas Auyezov, John Chalmers, Rami Ayyub, Valentyn Ogirenko and Reuters bureaus; writing by Mark Heinrich and Cynthia Osterman; editing by Gareth Jones, Hugh Lawson and Grant McCool)

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