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Russian forces continued to pound targets in eastern and southern Ukraine as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy reiterated his warning that Moscow may be preparing more serious attacks ahead of Kyiv’s 31st independence anniversary.

Local authorities in Kyiv banned large public events, rallies, and other gatherings related to the anniversary due to the possibility of missile attacks, according to a document published by the Kyiv military administration.

Ukraine’s General Staff said in its daily update on August 22 that, in the eastern Bakhmut region, fire from Russian artillery and multiple rocket launcher systems caused damage in the settlements of Soledar, Zaytseve, and Bilohorivka.

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Russian forces kept concentrating their efforts on establishing full control over the territories of the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk, maintaining captured areas of the regions city of Kherson and parts of the Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhya, and Mykolayiv, the General Staff added.

The city of Nikopol, which lies across the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant, was shelled on five different occasions overnight, regional Governor Valentyn Reznichenko wrote on Telegram on August 21.

He said 25 artillery shells hit the city, causing a fire at an industrial facility and cutting power to 3,000 residents.

The fighting near Zaporizhzhya and a missile strike on the southern town of Voznesensk, not far from Ukraine’s second-largest atomic plant, have triggered fears of a nuclear accident.

Moscow requested a UN Security Council meeting to be held on August 23 to discuss the plant, Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti reported, citing Russia’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy.

On August 21, US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and French President Emmanuel Macron held a phone call stressing the importance of ensuring the safety of nuclear installations, while underlining their “steadfast commitment” to Ukraine.

Zelenskiy has called for vigilance, saying Moscow could try “something particularly ugly” ahead of August 24, which marks Ukraine’s Independence Day and also half a year since Russia launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Zelenskiy said he had discussed “all the threats” with Macron and word had also been sent to other leaders including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“All of Ukraine’s partners have been informed about what the terrorist state can prepare for this week,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address, referring to Russia.

Zelenskiy also warned that, if Russia went ahead with plans to put captured Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol on trial, then it would have violated international rules and cut itself off from the negotiations.

“If this despicable show trial were to go ahead…this would be the line beyond which negotiations are no longer possible,” he said. “There will be no more conversations. Our state has said everything.”

The Financial Times, in an article published August 21, quoted Gennady Gatilov, Moscow’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, as saying that Erdogan had tried to facilitate dialogue.

But he dismissed speculation about talks between Zelenskiy and Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying there “was not any practical platform for having this meeting,” the report said.

Russia said its Kalibr missiles had destroyed an ammunition depot containing missiles for US-made HIMARS missile in Ukraine’s southeastern Odesa region, while Kyiv said a granary had been hit.

Neither claim could be independently confirmed.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa

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