KYIV — At least 15 people were killed and dozens wounded in a Russian rocket strike on a Ukrainian railway station on Wednesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said, as his nation marked the anniversary of its independence from Moscow-dominated Soviet rule.
Zelensky had on Tuesday warned of the risk of “repugnant Russian provocations” on Independence Day, which was marked six months exactly since Russian forces first invaded Ukraine, touching off Europe’s most devastating conflict since World War Two.
In a video address to the U.N. Security Council, Zelensky said the rockets had hit a train in the town of Chaplyne, some 90 miles west of Russian-occupied Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Four carriages were on fire, he said.
In an emotional speech to compatriots earlier in the day, Zelensky said Ukraine was “reborn” when Russia invaded and he vowed it would eventually drive out Russian forces completely.
“A new nation appeared in the world on Feb. 24 at 4 in the morning. It was not born, but reborn. A nation that did not cry, scream or take fright. One that did not flee. Did not give up. And did not forget,” he said, speaking in front of Kyiv’s main monument to independence in his trademark combat fatigues.
After days of warnings that Moscow could use Ukraine’s Independence Day to fire more missiles into major urban centers, the second-biggest city Kharkiv was under curfew, following months of frequent bombardment.
Public celebrations of Independence Day on Wednesday were canceled, but many Ukrainians marked the day by wearing embroidered shirts typical of the national dress.
Air raid sirens blared at least seven times in the capital Kyiv during the day though no attacks transpired.
Zelensky and his wife joined religious leaders for a service in Kyiv’s 11th-century St. Sophia cathedral and laid flowers at a memorial to fallen soldiers.
In his speech, the 44-year-old leader vowed to recapture Russian-occupied areas of eastern Ukraine as well as the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.
“We will not sit down at the negotiating table out of fear, with a gun pointed at our heads. For us, the most terrible iron is not missiles, aircraft and tanks, but shackles. Not trenches, but fetters,” he said.
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