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The U.S. on Tuesday warned it believes Russia is “stepping up efforts” to launch missile strikes on Ukraine as its Independence Day nears.
“The Department of State has information that Russia is stepping up efforts to launch strikes against Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and government facilities in the coming days,” the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine alerted.
The six-month anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 coincides with Ukraine’s Independence Day Wednesday and officials are worried Russia will use the moment increase its aggression beyond the frontlines.
“Russian strikes in Ukraine pose a continued threat to civilians and civilian infrastructure,” the embassy said, urging all U.S. citizens to leave Ukraine immediately using private transportation methods.
The announcement – the first of its kind in recent months – comes one day after Kyiv banned Independence Day celebrations in the capital city over concerns Russia could target the mass gatherings.
Wednesday will mark 31 years since Ukraine left the Soviet Union, but there will be no public celebrations as Kyiv placed a ban on mass gatherings and reissued remainders to listen to air-raid sirens amid the heightened threat.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday vowed a “powerful response” if Russia does increase its intensity of attacks over the next two days.
But over the weekend he warned, “We should be aware that this week Russia may try to do something particularly nasty, something particularly cruel.”
Russia has long relied on heavy artillery and missile fire to attack civilian and military targets throughout its invasion.
On Tuesday Zelenskyy said that while nearly 3,500 cruise missiles had struck Ukrainian targets, it is “simply impossible” to count the number of artillery strikes the Russian forces have rained down on Ukraine.
“There are too many of them, they are too intense,” he added.
Officials across Ukraine have implemented curfews and in Ukraine’s southern Mykolaiv region residents have been urged to work from home through Wednesday.