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Ukraine will take back Crimea, says Zelenskiy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says any Russian attack around the date of the country’s independence will be met with a powerful response as he vowed to restore Crimea.

August 24, 2022
By AAP
24 August 2022

As Ukraine prepares to mark both its independence from Soviet rule in 1991 and six months since Russian forces invaded, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has vowed that any Russian attacks in or around the date will provoke a powerful response.

Zelenskiy, who has led his country’s resistance since Russian troops poured over the border on February 24, also said Ukraine would restore its rule over the Crimea region – annexed by Russia in 2014 in a precursor to this year’s invasion.

“We will take back Crimea – it is our territory. We will do this in any way which we decide. We will decide this by ourselves, without consultation with any other country in the world,” he told reporters.

Despite his defiance, there was concern among Ukrainian and allied government officials that Russia was preparing to attack the capital Kyiv once again.

The United States said it believed Russia would target civilian and government infrastructure in the next few days. 

US citizens should leave Ukraine “now” by their own means if it was safe to do so, the US embassy said.

On the battlefields, Russian forces carried out artillery and rocket strikes in the Zaporizhzhia region in southeastern Ukraine, where fighting has taken place near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, Ukraine’s military said. 

Rising smoke can be seen from the beach at Saky after explosions were heard from the direction of a Russian military airbase near Novofedorivka, Crimea. (UGC via AP, File)

Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for strikes on the plant.

Meanwhile leaders of dozens of countries and international organisations were taking part in the so-called Crimea Platform – most of them by video – in solidarity with Ukraine on the six-month anniversary of the invasion.

“To overcome terror, it is necessary to gain victory in the fight against Russian aggression,” Zelenskiy, dressed in his customary military gear, told delegates in opening the forum.

“It is necessary to liberate Crimea. This will be the resuscitation of world law and order.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “We must continue to insist that Crimea is Ukraine, just as Donetsk and Luhansk are Ukraine, and just as every other part of the country is Ukraine.”

Zelenskiy told a news conference in Kyiv later that Ukraine would not agree to any proposal to freeze current front lines in order to “calm” Russia, which now controls about 22 per cent of Ukraine including Crimea.

He urged the world not to show fatigue with the war, saying this would pose a threat to everyone.

Italy’s acting Prime Minister Mario Draghi told the summit his country would continue to support Ukraine. 

“We are with you in your fight to resist Russia’s invasion, restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity, protect your democracy and independence,” he said.

A woman brandishes the Ukrainian flag on top of a destroyed Russian tank in Kyiv, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File)

Zelenskiy also said Ukraine needed more weapons from foreign supporters to help turn the tide against Russia.

Germany plans to deliver further arms, including air-defence systems, rocket launchers and precision munitions, to Ukraine worth more than 500 million euros in 2023, a source told Reuters.

Zelenskiy had warned at the weekend that Russia might try “something particularly ugly” in the run-up to Wednesday’s Independence Day.

“They will receive a response, a powerful response,” he said on Tuesday. 

“I want to say that each day… this response will grow, it will get stronger and stronger.”

Fears of intensified Russian attacks followed the killing of Darya Dugina, the daughter of a prominent Russian ultranationalist, in a car bombing near Moscow on Saturday. 

Ukrainians took shelter under a destroyed bridge as they tried to flee the Irpin river on the outskirts of Kyiv in March. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)

Russia blamed the killing on Ukrainian agents, a charge officials in Kyiv deny.

Kyiv has only rarely been hit by Russian missiles since Ukraine repelled a ground offensive to seize the capital in March.

The mood in Kyiv was calm on Tuesday, with many people still walking the streets but signs of increased threat could be felt.

Authorities told Ukrainians to work from home where possible from Tuesday to Thursday, also urging people to take air raid warnings seriously and seek shelter when sirens sound.

The Kyiv city administration banned large public gatherings until Thursday, fearing that a crowd of celebrating residents could become a target for a Russian missile strike.

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