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Ukraine celebrates Unity Day, shows no fear over an invasion

FILE PHOTO: Ukraine's biggest national flag on the country's highest flagpole and the giant 'Motherland' monument are seen at a compound of the World War II museum in Kyiv, Ukraine, December 16, 2021. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

As the president of Ukraine asked his countrymen, the Ukrainians on Wednesday raised national flags and played the country’s national anthem. This event was to show unity and strength against fears of a Russian invasion.

The news: On Unity Day in Ukraine, many yellow and blue coloured banners fluttered outside schools, hospitals. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy also came up with a holiday, which was created this week after Russia amassed troops near Ukraine’s borders.

  • Russia still denies that it will invade, but has warned that if its security demands, including NATO restrictions, are not met, it may take unspecified “military-technical” action.
  • Many people went about their daily lives in Kyiv’s main Khreshchatyk boulevard, where flags adorned government buildings.

What’s going on: Loudspeakers at a local government office in Kyiv were heard playing patriotic songs. Also, the television and government YouTube channels had broadcast speeches and rousing reminders of Ukraine’s nationhood.

  • In a televised address, Zelenskiy stated that Ukrainians were united in their desire “to live in peace, happily, in a family, children with parents.”

What are they saying: Mykola, a small coffee stand owner said, “Just a normal day, but these flags are here for a purpose, to show we fear no one. They did not scare us. No one can love our home as we can. And only we, together, can protect our home.”

  • On Tuesday, the Russian defense ministry said it was returning some troops to their bases after exercises.
  • The United States and its allies said they had not verified the move so far. US President Joe Biden said more than 150,000 Russian troops were currently deployed near Ukraine.

In addition: While Zelenskiy believes Russia is threatening to attack his country, he believes Western allies have exaggerated the likelihood of an imminent invasion in response to Moscow’s efforts to intimidate Ukraine and sow panic.

  • Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, said this week that the president chose Feb. 16 as the patriotic holiday partly ironically, in response to media reports that an invasion could take place on Wednesday.
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