August 24 has always been one of the most grandiose holidays in Ukraine’s calendar. Until 2014 – when Russia invaded and annexed Crimea before seizing the Ukrainian fleet – celebrations were even held at sea and onboard ships.
While writing this article, I remember Ukraine’s Independence Day celebrations eight years ago. In that year, there were no concerts where I lived in eastern Ukraine – after all, you don’t generally feel in the mood for concerts when there is a war being waged in your country.
It was then that the fiercest battles were taking place for the city of Ilovaisk, Donetsk region – known as the Ilovaisk Cauldron. It was raining and I was watching then President Petro Poroshenko’s “greetings” on TV with my mother. At that point, I was already ten times more aware of the value of this holiday.
Today, when people are killed every day in my homeland for nothing other than being Ukrainian, I love this day a hundred times more. And I am a hundred times prouder of my country’s people.
It’s interesting to note that August 24 this year will mark six months to the day of the full-scale invasion. All public holidays in Ukraine have been suspended and we will once again do without celebrations. But the enemy will not rest on its laurels and will do everything it can to tarnish this day for Ukrainians.
What to expect
According to some politicians, in particular the mayor of Mariupol Vadym Boychenko, on August 24 the occupying authorities plan to hold an open tribunal (a ‘show trial’ if you like) of the Azovstal defenders. On top of that, there is mounting evidence that Russia is preparing for a massive shelling campaign of Ukraine.
According to Oleksandr Kovalenko, a military observer of the “Information Resistance” group, Russia is currently stockpiling weapons close to the border with Ukraine.
“Today we can say that a large number of missiles are being concentrated at sites such as the Zyabrivka air base in Belarus. Weapons have been steadily transported there over recent weeks, which suggests that shelling of Ukraine may resume from the territory of Belarus,” the expert told me.
Zyabrivka is located 22 kilometers from Ukraine’s northern border (and about 250 kilometers from Kyiv). Currently, according to the Office of Strategic Communications of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, there is a stockpile of S-300 missiles at the site
“At the beginning of August, some 28 wagons containing missiles for the S-300 air defense system left Ulan-Ude (Siberia). In mid-August, more than 120 containers of S-300 missiles were seized from a storage complex containing missiles, ammunition and explosive materials in Kotovo (Russia),” the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a statement.
In addition, on August 17, Russia launched a missile attack on Odesa using Kh-22 missiles. Prior to that, the rockets had not been used for three weeks, observed Kovalenko.
“It is difficult to deliver them logistically, but these attacks indicate that [Kh-22] missiles are already present at airfields to launch strikes on Ukraine. It should also be noted that the Russians are concentrating a large number of aircraft on the border, as well as Kh-47M2 “Dagger” hypersonic missiles. There are less than 40 of them in service in Russia, but they are very difficult for our air defenses to intercept. Therefore, it is possible they could inflict painful blows. The situation is really tense.”
Notwithstanding the potential threat as August 24 approaches, Kovalenko believes that the occupiers are hampered from carrying out full-scale offensive actions along the front line today; similarly that the Ukrainian army is in no hurry to launch a counteroffensive. Therefore, in the short term, the situation at the front will unlikely see significant changes.
This means that Ukrainians will just have to experience August 24 as another day of the war, but with faith in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and belief in our collective hearts in the strength of our independence.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.
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