Ukraine’s capital Kyiv banned public celebrations this week commemorating independence from Soviet rule, citing a heightened threat of attack as a U.S. official warned of Russian plans to strike Ukrainian infrastructure in the coming days.
Near frontlines in the south of the country, Ukraine said Russia fired rockets into several towns north and west of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, captured by Russian forces shortly after they invaded Ukraine in February.
Artillery and rocket fire near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor complex, on the south bank of the Dnipro River, has led to calls for the area to be demilitarised. Ukrainians living near the plant voiced fears shells could hit one of the plant’s six reactors, with potentially disastrous consequences.
“Of course, we are worried. … It’s like sitting on a powder keg,” said Alexander Lifirenko, a resident of the nearby town of Enerhodar, now under control of pro-Moscow forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has warned that Moscow could try “something particularly ugly” in the run-up to Wednesday’s 31st independence anniversary, which also marks half a year since Russia invaded.
Warning of potential harm to civilians, a U.S. official told Reuters that Russia “is stepping up efforts to launch strikes against Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and government facilities in the coming days.”
The official said the statement was based on downgraded U.S. intelligence.
Fearing renewed rocket attacks, authorities in Kyiv moved to ban public events related to the independence anniversary from Monday until Thursday. The capital is far from the front lines and has only rarely been hit by Russian missiles since Ukraine repelled a ground offensive to seize the capital in March.
Other jurisdictions also restricted public gatherings. In Kharkiv, a northeastern city that has come under frequent and deadly longer-range artillery and rocket fire, Mayor Ihor Terekhov announced an extension to an overnight curfew to run from 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. effective from Tuesday to Thursday.
In the port of Mykolaiv near Russian-held territory to the south, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said authorities planned a precautionary order for residents to work from home on Tuesday and Wednesday and urged people not to gather in large groups.
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