War has been raging in Ukraine for six months – the deadline falls exactly on the country’s Independence Day. President Selenskyj warned in advance of attacks from the Russian side. In the evening he reports at least 15 dead and 50 injured after an attack on a train station. While the US pledges billions more in military aid, Kremlin boss Putin is paying out 10,000 rubles to Ukrainians in the occupied territories.

dead and injured

According to Ukrainian sources, at least 15 people were killed by Russian shelling at a train station in Ukraine on the country’s national holiday. President Volodymyr Zelenskyi reported that about 50 people were injured at the Chaplyne railway station in the Dnipropetrovsk region. The rockets hit a train, said Zelenskyj, and four wagons were on fire. “Rescue forces are on duty. Unfortunately, the number of deaths may still increase,” the President reported in a video link with the UN Security Council in New York on the occasion of Ukraine’s Independence Day and the start of the war exactly six months ago. “This is how we live every day.” The first – not yet verified – pictures from the region show a destroyed train. Elsewhere in the Dnipropetrovsk region in the center of the country, an 11-year-old child was killed by Russian shelling, local authorities said.

More attacks reported

According to official information, several regions of Ukraine have been fired at with Russian rockets. In the Khmelnytskyi region in the west of the country, heavy explosions were heard in the afternoon, according to Governor Serhiy Hamalij. A few minutes earlier, opposition activists from neighboring Belarus allegedly registered the firing of four rockets from Belarusian territory. Two Russian bombers also took off from Belarus. The information could not initially be independently verified.

In the morning, three Russian cruise missiles of the type Kalibr were intercepted over Khmelnytskyi, the responsible command of the Ukrainian air force said. In this case, the rockets were fired from the Black Sea. The Zhytomyr region in the north was also allegedly shelled. Throughout the day there was repeated air alert in Ukraine.

Zelenskyy: “Nuclear blackmail”

Before the UN Security Council, Zelenskyy accused Russia of “nuclear blackmail” because of its occupation of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. He called on Russia to completely withdraw from Ukraine’s nuclear facility. Moscow must “unconditionally end its nuclear blackmail.” Zelenskyy called the danger of radiation contamination in Europe “a fact”.

The nuclear plant in Zaporizhia – the largest nuclear power plant in Europe – had recently been repeatedly shelled, for which Kyiv and Moscow blame each other. Before Zelenskyj’s speech, UN Secretary-General António Guterres had once again expressed concern about the situation in Zaporizhia. “Any new escalation of the situation could lead to self-destruction,” he warned, referring to the danger of a nuclear catastrophe. He described the six-month war as a “sad and tragic milestone”.

Russia defends attack on Ukraine

Meanwhile, Moscow’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reiterated the justifications for the Russian attack. According to the Interfax agency, Ukraine has rejected the Minsk peace plan for the regions in the Donbass, Shoigu said in the Uzbek capital Tashkent. Therefore, “there was a real danger for the people of Donbass, and in the future for the Russian Federation,” he said. According to Moscow, the so-called military operation is going according to plan. “All goals will be achieved,” said Shoigu.

International observers note that Russian troops are making slow progress. However, Shoigu said the pace of the attacks was deliberately slowed down to avoid civilian casualties. He was reacting to the accusation of committing war crimes. In addition, Shoigu again castigated the West’s military aid to Kyiv. From his point of view, this increases the number of victims and prolongs the conflict. “We will fight to the end.”

Zelenskyi ruled out concessions and compromises towards the Russian attackers. In a video clip, he described Russian soldiers as “murderers, rapists and looters”. The war united Ukraine. He paid tribute to all who fought for Ukraine’s independence. Kiev’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko also said in a video message: “We will survive everything, no matter how difficult it is. We will win!” Among other things, Zelenskyy and his wife Olena celebrated Independence Day with a “Prayer for Ukraine” with representatives of all faiths in Kyiv.

Putin orders payments in occupied territories

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered money payments for people in occupied territories. In the occupied parts of the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv, as well as in Zaporizhia and Cherson in the south, parents of children between the ages of 6 and 18 are to receive a one-time payment of 10,000 rubles (almost 170 euros), according to a Kremlin statement. Moscow has repeatedly been criticized for tying Ukrainians to itself with money, for example, but also by issuing Russian passports. Putin’s decree coincided with Ukraine’s national holiday.

Military aid from USA and Great Britain

US President Joe Biden has pledged around $3 billion in military aid to Ukraine. According to the Washington government, this is the largest such aid package by the United States since the Russian invasion began six months ago. “The United States of America is committed to supporting the people of Ukraine in their continued defense of sovereignty,” Biden said in a statement to mark Ukraine’s Independence Day. Since Biden took office in January 2021, the US has provided Ukraine with a total of around $10.6 billion in military aid.

During a surprise visit to Kyiv to mark Independence Day, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also pledged further military aid worth £54 million (around €64 million). The package includes 2,000 drones and guided missiles, which are said to enable the Ukrainian military to better counter the invading Russian forces and track their movements more closely. “Britain will continue to stand by our Ukrainian friends. I believe Ukraine can and will win this war,” Johnson said on Twitter.

Belarus flashes congratulations

Russia’s ally Belarus surprisingly congratulated Ukraine on Independence Day, earning itself a harsh rebuff from Kyiv. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko wrote on his website that he wished Ukrainians “peaceful skies, tolerance, courage, strength and success in restoring a decent life”. With the permission of the government in Minsk, Russia had allowed its own ground troops to invade the common neighboring country and fired rockets at Ukraine from Belarusian airspace. Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podoliak sharply criticized the statements made by the Belarusian President. “Lukashenko seriously believes that the world will not notice his involvement in the crimes in Ukraine,” Podoliak wrote on Twitter. “That’s why he cynically wishes for ‘peaceful skies’ while allowing lethal missiles to fall upon us.”

Russian opposition activist arrested

The politician Yevgeny Roisman was arrested in Russia as one of the last remaining members of the opposition in freedom. Investigations have been launched against the 59-year-old former mayor of Yekaterinburg for “discrediting” the Russian army, the Russian Interior Ministry said. Investigators accuse Roisman of having published a video on the Internet that discredits the deployment of the Russian army. The state news agency Tass had previously reported that the video had been published on the politician’s YouTube channel. If convicted of “discrediting” the army, Roisman faces up to ten years in prison.

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