Ukraine is celebrating its Independence Day. Thirty one years ago, without a single shot being fired, the Soviet Union finally broke up and all of its republics set out to build their statehood.
The collapse of such a huge totalitarian system unfolded so peacefully that for many of the now independent states, it seemed as if from then on there would be only peace and friendship among neighbors.
But today, as the country marks six months of sustained warfare, the occasion takes on a special poignancy for Ukrainians.
Addressing the Ukrainian people today, President Volodymyr Zelensky, standing on Kyiv's main square, said: "What for us is the end of the war? Earlier we said ‘peace.’ Now we say ‘victory.’ We will not seek understanding with terrorists, although we understand the Russian language, which you have come to defend, and kill thousands of people you have come to ‘liberate.’ [...] And we do not sit at the negotiating table out of fear, with a gun on our backs — the most frightening thing for us is not rockets, planes, tanks, but the chains. Not trenches, but shackles. And we will lift up our hands only once — when we will celebrate our victory. With the whole of Ukraine, because we do not sell our land and people. All 25 regions, without any acts of compromise. Donbas is Ukraine, and we will take it back, no matter what the path may be. Crimea is Ukraine, and we will return it.”
Here's how newspapers across the world are covering Ukraine's Independence Day, and the six-month milestone.
Russia's Advances Stall As War Reaches Sixth-Month Mark
Ukrainian soldier in Mykolaiv
Six months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s advances have slowed down. But according to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, this is a deliberate decision in order to avoid civilian casualties. Speaking during a visit to the Uzbekistan capital, Shoigu assured that Russia's “military operation” in Ukraine is going to plan.
In reaction to his statement, Western analysts suggest that the reason Russia’s advances have stalled is because of Ukrainian resistance as well as poor logistical support.
Ukrainian forces are currently battling a Russian offensive in the east of the country, which is still largely under Russian occupation. The Ukrainian army is also launching a counteroffensive in the south. Valeriy Zaluzhny, commander-in-chief of Ukraine's armed forces, said earlier this month that the Russian forces “continue to advance” in the east but that the situation is “fully controlled”.
U.S. To Announce Biggest Military Aid Package So Far
\u201cMembers of the 305th Aerial Port Squadron load munition packages bound for Ukraine \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.\u201d— Department of Defense \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\uddf8 (@Department of Defense \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\uddf8) 1661289246
The U.S is expected to announce a $3-billion package of weapons and equipment for Ukraine, the biggest since the beginning of the conflict. The Pentagon has asked for the aid to include weapons, drones, air defense, anti-tank and communications equipment.
The U.S Department of Defense shared pictures of the preparation of the package on Twitter, adding that there was a shift toward a long-term campaign. Officials said that the equipment will reach Ukraine in several months or up to a couple of years as they're still being developed and would be used for Ukraine's future defense needs.
Another Pro-Russian Official Killed In Ukraine By Car Bomb
Ivan Sushko, a pro-Russian official in occupied Ukraine, died in hospital on Wednesday after he was critically injured by a bomb placed under his car, a Moscow-backed official said on Telegram. Sushko was appointed by Russia as the head of the military-civil administration of Mykhailivka, a town located just 62 kilometers away from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.
According to the BBC, Sushko is the latest prominent official to be killed by partisan forces in the occupied regions of Ukraine. The deputy head of the town of Nova Kakhovka in south-east Ukraine was shot dead two weeks ago in front of his home.
Norway And The UK To Donate Micro-Drones To Ukraine
\u201c#Norway and the #UK will donate more than $9 million worth of Black Hornet micro-drones to #Ukraine free of charge.\u201d— NEXTA (@NEXTA) 1661336628
The Norwegian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that Norway and the United Kingdom have pledged to jointly donate $9.25 million worth of micro-drones to help Ukraine fight Russia. It added that Ukraine had asked for these kinds of devices, which are used for reconnaissance and target identification. According to Norway’s Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram, they are “particularly well suited for combat in urban areas.”
Black Hornet drones were developed in Norway by manufacturers Teledyne FLIR. In addition to the equipment, spare parts, transportation and training will be provided to the Ukraine army thanks to a British-led fund to which Norway has contributed. UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the drones “will help give Ukraine’s troops a vital advantage on the battlefield.”
Russian Soldiers’ Letters Give Insight Into Low Troop Morale
Russian military in the Kherson region
Russian publication Meduza has collected hundreds of correspondence from relatives of Russian servicemen. Despair, fear, and uncertainty are prevalent in the Russian army, which only six months ago considered itself the “second largest in the world.” Here are some excerpts from the letters:
“The wounded go missing, and those who manage to return to Russia do not receive medical care.”
“[The] officers refused to perform a combat mission on July 16 and handed in their resignation letters. The officers were handcuffed and taken to the commandant's office. Then they were taken to the Wagner PMC. There is no more communication.”
“The conditions of service were unbearable — there was no food or water, no compensation, no way to regain strength and health. From the whole battalion, only 20 men remained in the ranks…”
Zelensky Pledges To Restore Ukrainian Rule In Crimea, Erdogan Agrees
Turkish President Recep Tayyip and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
During Polish President Andrzej Duda’s visit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pledged to restore Ukrainian rule in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. The Ukrainian president told the Crimean Platform summit that “for Ukraine, Crimea is a part of our people, our society, a community of people to whom we guarantee freedom.”
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey supports Ukraine’s territorial integrity and rejects Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea. In a video message, Erdogan said that Crimea must be returned to Ukraine. "The return of Crimea to Ukraine, of which it is an inseparable part, is essentially a requirement of international law," he said. Erdogan added that “ensuring the safety and well-being of our Crimean Tatar compatriots is also among Turkey's priorities.”
Pope Francis Warns Of Potential “Nuclear Disaster” In Zaporizhzhia
Pope Francis leaves after his weekly general audience
Pope Francis has called to end the war in Ukraine in order to avoid the risk of a “nuclear disaster” at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.
Speaking at his weekly general audience, the pope went off script to describe the situation in Ukraine as “madness” and called for “concrete steps” to end the war. He added that arms merchants who profit from war are “delinquents who kill humanity”.
UK Royal Guards Play Tribute On Ukraine Independence Day
\u201cToday Ukraine marks 31 years since it gained independence.\n\nTo honour the anniversary and as a tribute to the Ukrainian people, the @ScotsGuardsBand performed the winning @Eurovision entry, 'Stefania', on Horse Guards Parade. \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6\ud83c\uddec\ud83c\udde7\n\n@ArmyInLondon #StandWithUkraine #StandForFreedom\u201d— Ministry of Defence \ud83c\uddec\ud83c\udde7 (@Ministry of Defence \ud83c\uddec\ud83c\udde7) 1661326208
In tribute to the Ukrainian people as the country marks Independence Day, the colorful Scots Guards band, part of the UK Royal Corps of Army Music, chose to perform “Stefania,” the song that won Ukraine the latest edition of the Eurovision contest.
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