Russia launched more strikes on Ukrainian regions on Independence Day as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed the contribution of his compatriots in defending the country’s freedom in the face of Moscow’s full-scale invasion.
In an address to the nation, Zelenskiy said that 32 years after Ukraine gained its sovereignty, Independence Day on August 24 has become “the holiday of free people, the holiday of strong people.”
He commended all Ukrainians for their resilience and highlighted the cohesion of the Ukrainian society in the face of Russia’s aggression.
“Everyone is needed, everyone is important — people, actions, and words. Because we all made it so that when one says, ‘Glory to Ukraine,’ the whole world responds, ‘Glory to the heroes,'” Zelenskiy said.
Ten people were wounded in a Russian missile attack on the southern city of Dnipro early on August 24, Dnipropetrovsk regional Governor Serhiy Lysak said on Telegram.
“Powerful explosions in the middle of the night in Dnipro,” Lysak said, adding that a transport facility was destroyed.
Lysak said that three men and four women were wounded in the strike. “Six were hospitalized in a moderate condition,” he said.
More than a dozen civilian facilities were damaged, including a bank, a gas station, a hotel, an agricultural firm, a furniture factory, an administrative building, and two residential buildings.
In Kherson, Russian shelling of the city center on August 24 wounded three people, including a 7-year-old girl, the Prosecutor-General’s Office reported.
Russian forces have been shelling the liberated part of the southern region of Kherson on an almost daily basis since November.
Ukraine’s Air Force spokesman, Yuriy Ihnat, said in a statement that Russia struck overnight with S-300, Iskander-K, and Iskander-M ballistic missiles, adding that one Iskander-K missile was shot down by Ukrainian air defenses. He did not give further details.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulated Ukrainians on their Independence Day, saying that “August 24 is a testament to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and democracy and a day of pride in Ukraine’s strength and resilience.”
Blinken reiterated that America stands together with Ukraine as it defends its existence.
“We stand by you in the fight for your beloved country,” Blinken said in a statement.
Later, Zelenskiy said that he had spoken by phone with U.S. President Joe Biden and thanked him for his Independence Day greetings.
“The U.S. took the lead in rallying global support for Ukraine. This crucial leadership enabled our struggle and bent the arc of history towards good,” Zelenskiy wrote on Telegram.
WATCH: Svitlana Orikhova has learned not to sleep by day — too many curious passersby look into her tent. The Kharkiv resident’s apartment is still badly damaged from Russian shelling and she worries the ceiling may fall in, so she sleeps in a tent outside. Building repairs are ongoing but take time, she says, and new attacks can hit the city any day.
Separately, Norwegian broadcaster TV2 reported that Norway has decided to donate F-16 combat aircraft to Ukraine. TV2, citing unnamed sources, did not say how many jets Norway would give Ukraine.
If confirmed, the announcement will make Norway the third European country, after the Netherlands and Denmark, that has pledged F-16s to Ukraine.
Kyiv has long been calling on its allies to supply the U.S.-made warplanes to beef up its air power during its counteroffensive.
Ukrainian forces repelled Russian counterattacks in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Kharkiv and in the southern region of Zaporizhzhya, the General Staff reported on August 24.
Ukrainian forces continued their advance toward Melitopol, the military said. Melitopol, known as the “gateway to Crimea,” was captured by Russian troops in March last year after several days of heavy fighting.
Meanwhile, the intelligence department of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said it conducted a joint raid in occupied Crimea with naval forces early on August 24.
“Special units on watercraft landed on the shore in the area of Olenivka and Mayak settlements [on the westernmost tip of Crimea]. During the execution of the operation, Ukrainian forces engaged units of the [Russian] occupier. As a result, the enemy suffered losses in personnel and equipment,” the department said in a statement, which was accompanied by a video purportedly showing footage from the operation.
During the raid, the statement said the Ukrainian flag flew again in Crimea.