Russia-Ukraine war hits six months on Independence Day

Russia At War

(NewsNation) — Ukrainians marked their country’s 31st Independence Day Wednesday, exactly six months to the day after Russian forces began their invasion. While most expected the country to fall quickly to Moscow, Ukrainian forces have held their ground against their invaders.

“Six months ago, Russia declared war on us. On Feb. 24, all of Ukraine heard explosions and gunshots. … On Feb. 24, we were told: You have no chance. On Aug. 24, we say: Happy Independence Day, Ukraine!” Zelenskyy said in an Independence Day message.

Wednesday’s holiday commemorates Ukraine’s 1991 declaration of independence from the Soviet Union.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged the public to be vigilant as he warned the holiday may bring heavier shelling and attacks on the country. Authorities in the capital banned large-scale gatherings until Thursday to ensure the safety of Ukraine’s citizens.

“Russian provocations and brutal strikes are a possibility,” Zelenskyy said in a statement. “Please strictly follow the safety rules. Please observe the curfew. Pay attention to the air sirens. Pay attention to official announcements. And remember: We must all achieve victory together.”

In the wake of the war’s six months, President Joe Biden announced an additional $2.98 billion of weapons and equipment for Ukraine. The money will fund contracts for drones, weapons and other equipment that may not see the battlefront for a year or two, U.S. officials said.

“On behalf of all Americans, I congratulate the people of Ukraine on their Independence Day. Over the past six months, Ukrainians have inspired the world with their extraordinary courage and dedication to freedom,” Biden said in a statement Wednesday announcing the new financial package.

In the statement, Biden pledged his continued support to Ukraine: “Today and every day, we stand with the Ukrainian people to proclaim that the darkness that drives autocracy is no match for the flame of liberty that lights the souls of free people everywhere. The United States, including proud Ukrainian-Americans, looks forward to continuing to celebrate Ukraine as a democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous state for decades to come.”

To date, the U.S. has sent about $10.6 billion in military aid to Ukraine, including 19 packages of weapons taken directly from the Defense Department stocks since August of 2021.

As the war reached its 182nd day, there has been no signs of a quick end to the conflict.

The U.S. ambassador in Ukraine is warning Americans to leave the country as soon as possible. Ukraine feared even more Russian aggression following the death of the daughter of Putin’s ally with Russia blaming the country for last week’s car explosion that killed Daria Dugina, despite Ukraine denying involvement.

Also, there has been an international concern and a growing call to end the fighting near Europe’s largest nuclear plant. Both countries have accused each other of firing missiles close to that plant. The U.N. Security Council will meet again Wednesday to discuss the nuclear disaster threats this can present. U.N. officials are calling on Moscow to create a demilitarized zone around the plant.

Since the beginning of the war, both sides have seen thousands of troops killed and injured, including tremendous numbers of civilians. Ukraine reports more than 15,000 Ukrainians have died since February, with the most killed in March. But experts believe that number is actually much higher.

The U.N. reported roughly 6.7 million refugees have fled Ukraine and are scattered all across Europe.

Experts say the first two phases of the war are believed to be over. Ukraine’s defense minister said he expects the worst of the bloodshed to be over as well. But as warfare slows and Ukraine tries to maintain its southern region, experts worry it could become tougher to do with lesser resources and waning public support.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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