Ukraine is preparing for Independence Day and the anniversary of the war in Russia

A year ago on Wednesday, more than 5,000 Ukrainian and foreign troops marched down Khreshchatyk, Kyiv’s main thoroughfare, past the Maidan, the square where Ukrainians rose up against the country’s pro-Russian leader in 2013 , to celebrate 30 years of independence. of the Soviet Union. Ukrainian Air Force jets, British Typhoons and American F-16s flew over the city as delegates from nearly 50 countries watched the spectacle.

Today, on the eve of Ukraine’s Independence Day celebrations, the streets of Kyiv are eerily quiet, officials said. After Ukrainian officials completed Khreshchatyk with burned Russian tanks and destroyed artillery in the six-month war over the weekend Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ordered members of parliament and government employees to be sent home and banned Independence Day festivities in anticipation of possible Russian missile strikes on the capital.

A European diplomat said Foreign Police that some embassies were moving their staff closer to the bunkers and sending local Ukrainian employees living on the outskirts of Kyiv to hotels with bunkers to protect them in the event of a Russian missile attack on Wednesday, which will also mark six months since the full-scale deployment of Russia invasion of Ukraine.

A year ago on Wednesday, more than 5,000 Ukrainian and foreign troops marched down Khreshchatyk, Kyiv’s main thoroughfare, past the Maidan, the square where Ukrainians rose up against the country’s pro-Russian leader in 2013 , to celebrate 30 years of independence. of the Soviet Union. Ukrainian Air Force jets, British Typhoons and American F-16s flew over the city as delegates from nearly 50 countries watched the spectacle.

Today, on the eve of Ukraine’s Independence Day celebrations, the streets of Kyiv are eerily quiet, officials said. After Ukrainian officials completed Khreshchatyk with burned Russian tanks and destroyed artillery in the six-month war over the weekend Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ordered members of parliament and government employees to be sent home and banned Independence Day festivities in anticipation of possible Russian missile strikes on the capital.

A European diplomat said Foreign Police that some embassies were moving their staff closer to the bunkers and sending local Ukrainian employees living on the outskirts of Kyiv to hotels with bunkers to protect them in the event of a Russian missile attack on Wednesday, which will also mark six months since the full-scale deployment of Russia invasion of Ukraine.

“We all see Kyiv as the most dangerous place tomorrow,” said Oleksiy Goncharenko, a Ukrainian MP from Odessa. “It’s absolutely impossible to predict.”

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv also urged U.S. citizens to leave Ukraine by land as soon as possible, citing State Department reports that Russia may launch strikes against Ukrainian civilian infrastructure and government facilities. Alarm was further heightened after the death of the daughter of a prominent Russian nationalist and sometimes Kremlin whisperer in a car bomb attack in Russia over the weekend, which Russian security services quickly reported. and without evidence blamed on a host of foreign actors.

“We don’t know what things will look like in two days, [but] obviously we don’t want to see more violence than we’ve already seen in the last six months,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby told CNN on Tuesday morning.

The prospect of Russian strikes on Kyiv, the first in weeks, also worries Western officials, as the Kremlin has become increasingly dependent on unguided munitions that could overshoot their targets and hit civilian areas. The EU diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the security situation, said Russia’s growing inaccuracy with long-range strikes has officials concerned about possible civilian harm if the Kremlin puts indeed Kyiv in the crosshairs. Loading precision weapons for strikes, such as Kalibr cruise missiles, could take days, the EU diplomat said.

There is precedent for Russia to make such strikes. After Russia’s Victory Day parade in May celebrating the Soviet Union’s victory on the Eastern Front in World War II, Russian strikes pounded the port city of Odessa and besieged Mariupol, which was occupied by Russian forces a few weeks later. Goncharenko, the Ukrainian lawmaker from Odessa, said Russia had already closed airspace on its western border with Ukraine in anticipation of possible strikes. Ukrainian lawmakers said Russia had also moved several rocket launch systems to allied Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north, for use in possible strikes.

Russia’s leveling of threats against Ukraine around its Independence Day is historically new, said Markian Dobczansky, an associate at Harvard University’s Ukrainian Research Institute. In 2001, Putin attended a military parade in Kyiv celebrating the 10th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence. But in recent years, the day has taken on a more formalized expression of Ukrainian state values, especially since 2014, Dobczansky said. Russia’s latest threats “follow a pattern of Russia trying to intimidate Ukrainians and demoralize them”, he said, consistent with its attacks on civilian buildings.

Ukraine’s independence also marks an important date for Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians, NATO countries whose independence movements joined those of Ukraine after the collapse of the Union. Soviet Union in 1991, said Steven Seegel, professor of Slavic and Eurasian studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

Others believe the security measures, including Zelensky’s decision to cancel public events in Kyiv, were prudent, due to the possibility of Russian retaliation as Ukraine tries to initiate a counter-offensive from the south.

“That and that car bombing in Russia, probably an internal action gone wrong, would lead to the idea that the Russians would go on a rampage,” said Mick Mulroy, former US Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under the Trump administration. The United States is also expected to announce a new $3 billion military aid package to Kyiv on Wednesday, the largest batch of American aid since the full-scale invasion of Russia six months ago, which is expected to be focus on long-term help, like supplying drones.

“People are right to be cautious,” Seegel said, especially given the significance of the date, the sixth anniversary of the Russian invasion.

Although Western and Ukrainian officials believe that Russia has already used many of its conventional military escalation levers in six months of war in Ukraine, such as expanding the battlefield away from military targets to hit schools, hospitals, churches, theaters and other public gatherings. spots, a second Ukrainian official said Russian provocations could also target civilian and critical infrastructure, such as the energy grid, logistics facilities and warehouses. (Russia took control of a Ukrainian nuclear power plant this spring and continues to hurl explosive shells at it when it’s not trying to steal its power output.)

Sasha Ustinova, another Ukrainian lawmaker, said Russia could also hold show trials for some of the captured defenders of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, the last stronghold of the besieged city that surrendered to Russian forces in may.

A Ukrainian military intelligence alert said on Tuesday that Russia’s bombing of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, had raised clouds of radioactive dust around the plant and caused high levels of radiation in around.

“They can do something like they did in Olenivka, where they literally killed all our prisoners of war and said it was a [U.S.-supplied] HIMAR,” Ustinova said. “The Russians don’t care.”