September 26, 2022

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'We fear no one' Ukrainians raise flags to defy fear of Russian invasion

‘We fear no one’ Ukrainians raise flags to defy fear of Russian invasion

KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainians raised national flags and played the country’s national anthem on Wednesday to show unity in the face of fears of a Russian invasion that Western powers have said may be imminent.

The yellow and blue banner fluttered outside schools, hospitals and many shops to mark “Day of Unity,” a day marked by President Volodymyr Zelensky this week after Russia massed troops near Ukraine’s border.

Russia has denied it will invade, but has warned that it may take unspecified “military-technical” measures if its security demands, including restrictions on NATO, are not met.

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On Kiev’s main Khreshchatyk Street, where flags adorn government offices, it was business as usual for many.

“Just a normal day, but these flags are here for the purpose of showing that we don’t fear anyone. They didn’t scare us,” said Mikola, who runs a small coffee kiosk in the capital.

A loudspeaker in a local government office played patriotic songs, while state television and YouTube channels broadcast speeches and reminders of the Ukrainian state.

“Everyone wants to scare us and we’re here to stay,” said Lyudmila, the retired, who wore a small Ukrainian flag in the fold of her coat.

At the Kiev Olympic Stadium, dozens of people raised a 200-meter Ukrainian flag, waving it to the beat of national music.

In a televised address, Zelensky said that Ukrainians are united around a common desire “to live in peace, happiness, in a family, and children with their parents.”

“No one can love our home as much as we can,” he said. “Only together can we protect our home.” Later, Zelensky is scheduled to inspect military exercises in Rivne and fly to the eastern Donbass region to meet with the working forces.

Zelensky, an active social media user, invited Ukrainians to post photos and videos of the Ukrainian flag and add hashtags. On Instagram, users posted under #UnityDay.

“Today we have proven that we Ukrainians are a united nation and a united people,” said Pavlo Horinov, an official at the State Institute for Family and Youth Policy.

Zelensky has long said that while he believes Russia is threatening to attack his country, the possibility of an imminent invasion by Western allies, in response to Moscow’s efforts to intimidate Ukraine and sow panic, has been exaggerated.

Mikhailo Podolak, an adviser to Zelensky’s chief of staff, said this week that the president had chosen February 16 as a national holiday, in part, in response to media reports of a possible invasion on Wednesday.

The Russian Defense Ministry said it was returning some troops to their bases after the exercises. But the United States said there were indications that more troops were on the way. Read more

US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that more than 150,000 Russian troops are currently deployed near Ukraine.

Hours after Moscow announced the withdrawal, Ukraine said the Defense Ministry’s online networks and two banks were mired in a cyber attack. The ministry said hackers were still bombing the Defense Ministry’s websites on Wednesday.

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Although Kiev did not say who was behind the incident, a statement indicated that it was pointing the finger at Russia. Read more

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(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic) Editing by Frank-Jacques Daniel

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.