Events scheduled to mark the 31st anniversary of Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union have been canceled over fears that Russia may launch military strikes on Ukrainian towns and cities. That decision comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned that Russia could be plotting “vicious” attacks on Ukraine in response to the car bomb killing of Daria Dugina, the daughter of Putin adviser Alexander Dugin.
“We must all be aware that this week Russia could try to do something particularly ugly, something particularly vicious,” Zelenskiy said over the weekend.
The Kyiv city military administration issued a ban on public gatherings between Monday and Thursday. The ban forbids peaceful meetings, rallies, and other events in the city streets. Gen. Mykola Zhyrnov, the head of the Kyiv military administration, said the decision was made so security forces in the region could more quickly respond to threats of bomb and missile attacks by Russian forces.
Similar measures were introduced in Kharkiv and other cities across the country.
Will Russia Retaliate?
The Kremlin probably intends retaliation for the recent assassination of Daria Dugina, but Independence Day celebrations might not be the Russian military’s target. While Ukrainian troops would almost certainly have been in attendance at those events, guarding citizens against possible Russian attacks, the optics of striking Independence Day celebrations attended by innocent civilians would not be good for Russia.
The Kremlin already stands accused of committing war crimes throughout Ukraine. While top Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has repeatedly denied accusations that the Russian military has purposely targeted civilian infrastructure, a wealth of evidence suggests otherwise. In May, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution to set up an investigation into possible war crimes committed by Russian soldiers in Kyiv and elsewhere in Ukraine.
However, Russia already faces intense international sanctions as a result of the war, and further condemnation from the West is unlikely to make the situation much worse. If Russia did want to inflict pain on Kyiv, as a last-ditch effort to claim some ground in Ukraine, or to make the Ukrainian military think twice about its efforts to reclaim Crimea and other occupied regions, then targeting its Independence Day celebrations would be a good option.
That being said, however, Moscow probably knows that Kyiv won’t stop fighting until it runs short of Western-supplied weapons and ammunition, or until its military simply runs out of troops.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.