In the shadow of the Russian war of aggression that has been going on for six months, Ukraine is celebrating its national holiday on Wednesday. Independence Day is an important date for Ukrainians – “and therefore unfortunately also for our enemy,” said President Volodymyr Zelenskyj.
There was nervousness in Kyiv because of fears of Russian rocket attacks on large cities. Selenskyj called on the population to stick to the curfews and to get to safety in the event of an air alarm. “Remember, we should all experience victory together,” he said.
The war-torn country receives further arms aid from abroad. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) announced a German armaments package with anti-aircraft systems, rocket launchers, ammunition and anti-drone devices. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged Ukraine’s supporters to provide more military aid. “The NATO allies should urgently do more so that Ukraine can survive as a sovereign independent nation,” Stoltenberg told the newspaper “Die Welt”.
31 years ago, on August 24, 1991, the then Soviet Republic of Ukraine declared its independence after the failed coup by conservative forces against Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev. Six months ago, his successor in the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin, ordered an attack on the neighboring country in order to bring it back under Russian control.
Large parts of Ukraine have been devastated since February 24, and Russian troops have occupied about a fifth of the country. Although Ukraine held out at great cost, there is no end in sight to the war.
Selenskyj described the defensive struggle against Russian aggression in martial terms. With the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Russians decided to occupy his country, he told journalists at the conclusion of the so-called Crimea Platform. “When they made that decision in 2014, the world didn’t just punch them in the face, and so they went on and on and on. But we’re going to kick them in the face.”
With its attacks and acts of violence, Russia shows that it does not want to negotiate.
Later in his evening video address on Tuesday, Zelenskyy thanked for the international support Ukraine is receiving at the forum to repatriate Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014. Germany, Poland, Turkey, Japan and other countries pledged help to Kyiv. “Crimea is an indispensable part of our state,” said Zelenskyy. Ukraine will liberate the Black Sea peninsula and give its compatriots the freedom they deserve.
The Ukrainian concern about increased Russian attacks on the symbolically important holiday was shared internationally. The United States warned Russia against attacks against civilian targets.
“In conclusion, I would like to remind my Russian colleagues that as Ukraine’s Independence Day approaches, the world is watching,” US Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Mills told the Security Council. “It shouldn’t need to be said, but please don’t bomb schools, hospitals, orphanages or homes.”
The US would continue to pursue all violations of international law. The US government had previously asked its citizens to leave Ukraine immediately.
The United Nations has again called on Moscow and Kyiv to allow independent experts to visit the contested Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. “We again call on the parties to allow the IAEA mission immediate, safe and unhindered access to the site,” UN representative Rosemary DiCarlo told the Security Council in New York.
She spoke of “almost daily reports of alarming incidents in the factory”. Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of shelling Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
The IAEA mission, which is supported in principle by all sides, has so far failed due to the dispute as to whether the experts are traveling via Russian-controlled territory or – which would be correct under international law – from Ukrainian territory. Two weeks ago, the Russian Foreign Ministry had already raised the accusation that an agreement had been prevented by objections from the UN leadership.
On Tuesday, a ministry spokeswoman again criticized the UN and spoke of a “wrong game by the Secretariat of the United Nations”.
According to a spokesman, the armaments package promised by Chancellor Scholz is worth around 500 million euros. Kyiv is to receive three more Iris-T anti-aircraft systems, a dozen armored recovery vehicles and 20 pick-up-mounted missile launchers. The money still has to be released by the budget committee.
The weapons should be delivered “mainly in 2023”, but “some significantly earlier”. Some of the armaments mentioned had already been promised earlier. Main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers, which Kyiv has been asking for for a long time, are not on the list.
The outgoing Ukrainian ambassador Andriy Melnyk welcomed the arms aid. “We are grateful for these commitments,” he said in ZDF’s “heute journal update”. He expressed the hope “that the other weapons that can be delivered quickly will also reach Ukraine.” Especially before winter it’s about every day. Melnyk had often accused the federal government of hesitating when it came to aid.
On Independence Day in Kyiv it was expected that other countries would make new armaments commitments. On the doubly significant date, ARD broadcasts its “Tagesthemen” live from Kyiv, moderated by Caren Miosga. In the past few days, the presenter had spoken to Ukrainians about their lives and surviving in the war, NDR said.