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Russian forces shell Ukraine ahead of its Independence Day

With Independence Day falling on August 24, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warns of intensified military action on the part of Russia, while Russian forces ramp up shellings on frontline cities, including Nikopol.

On Monday, Russian forces pressed on with their offensive across several Ukrainian regions, raining artillery shells down on Nikopol, a city near Zaporizhzhia and its nuclear power plant, which is Europe’s biggest, that has found itself in the spotlight and a point of concern for some politicians and experts.

A total of five times is how often Nikopol was shelled overnight, regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko wrote on Telegram on Sunday, adding that 25 artillery shells hit the city, causing a fire at industrial premises and cutting power to 3,000 residents.

A missile strike on the southern town of Voznesensk and fighting near the Zaporizhzhia power plants fueled fears of a nuclear accident.

On Sunday, US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron held a phone call to highlight the importance of ensuring the safety of nuclear installations, while underlining their “steadfast commitment” to Ukraine.

Russian missiles also struck near the Black Sea port of Odesa over the weekend. Russia claimed on Sunday that its Kalibr missiles had obliterated an ammunition dump containing missiles for US-made HIMARS rockets in Ukraine’s southeastern Odesa region. To recall, these ports are critical to an UN-brokered plan to make the Black Sea sailable for Ukrainian agricultural products-carrying vessels headed for world markets.

Ukraine said a granary suffered in the shelling.

Artillery fire and rockets ejected from launcher systems hit the areas of Soledar, Zaytseve and Bilogorivka settlements in the eastern Bakhmut region, Ukraine’s General Staff said in its daily update on Monday.

Russian forces continued to focus their efforts on establishing full control over the territories of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. They maintained control of the captured areas of Kherson and parts of Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, and Mykolaiv regions, the General Staff added.

‘Something ugly’ brewing up

Calling for vigilance, President Zelenskyy warned Moscow could try “something particularly ugly” ahead of Wednesday’s celebrations of Ukraine’s Independence Day and also half a year since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

The official went on to say that he had discussed “all the threats” with French President Emmanuel Macron and word had also been sent to other leaders including Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“All of Ukraine’s partners have been informed about what the terrorist state can prepare for this week,” President Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address, referring to Russia.

He went on to say that if Russia went ahead with its scheme of prosecuting Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol in a show trial, then Moscow would have violated international rules and effectively cut itself off from negotiations.

If this despicable show trial were to go ahead… this would be the line beyond which negotiations are no longer possible,” he said. “There will be no more conversations. Our state has said everything.”

As reported by the Financial Times on Sunday, Gennady Gatilov, Moscow’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said Erdogan had tried to facilitate dialogue. The daily went on to stress that the ambassador dismissed speculation about talks between Zelenskyy and Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, saying there “was not any practical platform for having this meeting”.

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