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Civilians flee Kyiv amid threat of ‘brutal Russian strikes’ on Independence Day

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Civilians flee Kyiv amid threat of ‘brutal Russian strikes’ on Independence Day
Civilians flee Kyiv amid threat of ‘brutal Russian strikes’ on Independence Day
Civilians flee Kyiv amid threat of ‘brutal Russian strikes’ on Independence Day
Civilians flee Kyiv amid threat of ‘brutal Russian strikes’ on Independence Day
Civilians flee Kyiv amid threat of ‘brutal Russian strikes’ on Independence Day
Civilians flee Kyiv amid threat of ‘brutal Russian strikes’ on Independence Day
Civilians flee Kyiv amid threat of ‘brutal Russian strikes’ on Independence Day
Civilians flee Kyiv amid threat of ‘brutal Russian strikes’ on Independence Day

Air sirens wail and streets abandoned in Kyiv amid Zelensky's warning of 'brutal strikes' on Independence Day
Some brave civilians checked out a ‘parade’ of captured Russian tanks (Picture: AFP/AP)

Kyiv’s steady ‘return to normality’ has been shattered by threats of airstrikes on residents daring to celebrate Ukraine’s Independence Day.

The city’s shops, restaurants and businesses had been teeming with people in recent weeks as the key battle lines remain far to the east.

There have only been two attacks on the capital since April and more than 100,000 internal refugees are believed to be living there, although commanders continue to warn it is not completely safe.

But many civilians began fleeing the area on Tuesday after President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Russia may launch ‘brutal strikes’, according to his officials.

Zelensky said August 24, which marks the day Ukraine formally broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991, was an important date ‘for all of us’ but was ‘also important for our enemy’.

The date also marks exactly six months since the start of Putin’s invasion, an embarrassing milestone for the 69-year-old who had planned his assault in the confident belief Ukraine would be defeated in a matter of days.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday, the president’s top aide Alex Rodnyansky said: ‘There is a risk Russia will try to strike exactly at that time to compensate for their inability to have any success on the battlefield, to have any success in subduing Ukraine and basically all the failures they have run up over the last six months.

US intelligence sources Putin is likely to ‘step up’ efforts to hit government facilities and major infrastructure points this week.

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KYIV, UKRAINE - AUGUST 24: A Ukrainian boy poses for a photo with a tank, captured by Ukrainian forces during the war against Russia, on Khreshchatyk street during the Ukraine's 31st Independence Day in Kyiv, Ukraine on August 24, 2022. Although public celebrations, meetings and demonstrations with large participation were banned on August 22-25 due to the fear that Russia might attack Kiev, Ukrainian people came to the area where the military vehicles captured in the war were exhibited. (Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Some civilians braved the risk to look at a ‘parade’ of captured Russian military vehicles (Picture: Getty)
KYIV, UKRAINE - AUGUST 24: Ukrainian kids pose for a photo with a tank, captured by Ukrainian forces during the war against Russia, on Khreshchatyk street during the Ukraine's 31st Independence Day in Kyiv, Ukraine on August 24, 2022. Although public celebrations, meetings and demonstrations with large participation were banned on August 22-25 due to the fear that Russia might attack Kiev, Ukrainian people came to the area where the military vehicles captured in the war were exhibited. (Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The country marked 31 years of independence from the Soviet Union on Wednesday (Picture: Anadolu)
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Sergei Chuzavkov/SOPA Images/Shutterstock (13154146f) People take pictures with the Ukrainian flag near destroyed Russian army equipment displayed at Khreshchatyk in the center of Kyiv. As dedicated to the upcoming Independence Day of Ukraine, and nearly 6 months after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the country's capital Kyiv holds an exhibition on the main street of Khreshchatyk Street showing multiple destroyed military equipment, tanks, and weapons from The Armed Forces of The Russian Federation (AFRF). As the Russian full invasion of Ukraine started on February 24, the war has killed numerous civilians and soldiers, nearly 9000 Ukrainian military personnel have been killed in the war with Russia, the head of Ukraine's armed forces said on Monday, August 22, 2022. An exhibition displaying destroyed Russian military equipment in Kyiv, Ukraine - 23 Aug 2022
Residents have been banned from gathering in large numbers (Picture: Rex)
A view of destroyed Russian military vehicles installed in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022. Kyiv authorities have banned mass gatherings in the capital through Thursday for fear of Russian missile attacks. Independence Day, like the six-month mark in the war, falls on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
Commanders don’t yet consider the city safe from long-range attacks (Picture: AP)

Ukrainian officials have not warned of specific threats requiring local evacuations.

But cvilians have been banned from gathering in large numbers and told to obey a 7pm curfew and listen out for air raid sirens.

People were said to be moving clear of built-up areas, particularly those housing state buildings.

Mr Rodnyansky added: ‘People are reacting to the news. They are trying to ensure they have contingency plans, they don’t want to spend too much time near the centre near the buildings of our government.’

Despite the threats, President Zelensky stepped outside in central Kyiv on Wednesday to film a video address congratulating his people on their resilience.

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This handout photo taken and released by the Ukrainian presidential press service on August 24, 2022, shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) and his wife Olena attending a commemoration ceremony at a memorial wall displaying images of Ukrainian servicemen and servicewomen killed since Russia launched a military invasion on the country in February, in the centre of Kyiv, on Ukraine's Independence Day. - Ukraine's Independence Day also marks six months since the start of Moscow's military invasion launched on February 24. (Photo by UKRAINE PRESIDENCY / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT
Zelensky and his wife Olena paid tribute to victims of the invasion (Picture: AFP)

He stood near a curated ‘parade’ of captured and decommissioned Russian tanks and military vehicles, which a a few dozen brave civilians were seen inspecting earlier in the day.

He said: ‘On February 24, we were told: you have no chance. On August 24, we say: Happy Independence Day, Ukraine!

‘[Before], the world was not united. COVID-19 clearly showed: it’s every man for himself. Ukraine has changed this in six months.

‘All world history textbooks will have a section: “Times when Ukraine united the world”. When democracy grew teeth again. When tyranny receives an answer in the language it understands.

Russian MBTs Downtown Kyiv, Ukraine
Kyiv had shown strong signs of a return to normal life before the latest threats (Picture: Getty)

”The occupier believed that in a few days he would be on parade in our capital’s downtown. Today, you can see this “parade” …

‘The proof that enemy equipment can appear in the center of Kyiv only in such form. Burnt, wrecked and destroyed.’

A total of 5,587 civilians including 324 children have been killed in Ukraine since the start of the fighting, according to the latest UN figures.

A further 7,890 have suffered gruesome injuries, of which 558 are children, with most incidents linked to the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects.

UN investigators believe the true casualty numbers is ‘considerably higher’ due to difficulties in collecting data from active warzones.

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