Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday that Ukrainians are “fighting for our destiny” as the country marked its Independence Day along with six months since Russia launched its invasion.
Speaking in a video address from Kyiv’s Independence Square, Zelenskyy said Ukraine will fight for its land “until the end,” and that while once the end of the war would be marked by peace, now Ukraine wants victory.
“And we will put our hands up only once — when we will celebrate our victory. The whole of Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said. “Because we do not trade our lands and our people. For us, Ukraine is all of Ukraine. All 25 regions, without any concessions or compromises.”
Zelenskyy said Ukraine would regain control of the eastern Donbas region as well as Crimea.
Russian forces shifted their focus to the Donbas after failing in an early push toward the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Russian-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces in the Donbas since 2014. The same year, Russian annexed Crimea in a move not recognized by the international community.
“You don’t want your soldiers to die? Free our lands,” Zelenskyy said. “You don’t want your mothers to cry? Free our lands. These are our simple and clear terms.”
Public Independence Day celebrations were banned in Kyiv as Ukrainian leaders, and the United States, warned of increased Russian efforts to strike civilian infrastructure and government facilities in Ukraine.
U.S. officials are expected to announced as early as Wednesday an additional $3 billion in new aid to train and supply Ukrainian forces for years to come. The officials said the assistance would fund contracts for drones, weapons and other equipment that may not be used on the battlefront for a year or two.
Unlike most previous packages that provided immediate battlefield assistance, the new funding is largely aimed at helping Ukraine secure its medium- to long-term defense.
The new aid would come on top of about $10.6 billion in military assistance the U.S. has already sent to Ukraine in the last year and a half.
Norway’s defense ministry said in a statement Wednesday that Norway and Britain are jointly supplying Ukraine with micro drones used for “reconnaissance and target identification.”
Norway is also supplying a portable system that would allow Ukrainian forces to jam enemy drones, which Norwegian defense ministry said is “particularly suitable for protecting smaller patrols, artillery positions and other important resources.”
‘Madness’ of war
Pope Francis used part of his general audience Wednesday to renew a call for prayers for the Ukrainian people, saying they have “been suffering the horrors of war for six months now,” according to Vatican News.
“I hope that concrete steps will be taken to bring an end to the war and to avert the risk of a nuclear disaster at Zaporizhzhia,” the pope said, referring to a nuclear power plant that Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of attacking in recent weeks.
Pope Francis also talked about what he called “the madness” of war and losses on both sides of the conflict, saying children “have lost their father or mother, whether Russians or Ukrainians.”
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.