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Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

Aug 24 (Reuters) - Ukrainians mark 31 years since they broke free from the Russia-dominated Soviet Union on Wednesday in what is certain to be a day of defiance against the Kremlin's six-month-old war to subdue the country once again.

INDEPENDENCE DAY

* President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Ukrainians in an emotional speech that their country had been "reborn" when Russia invaded on Feb. 24 and that it would never give up its fight for freedom from Moscow's domination.

* Zelenskiy said Ukraine would recapture its annexed peninsula of Crimea from Russia by any means it deemed right, and that it would not consult other countries before doing so.

* Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, has banned public celebrations commemorating Ukraine's independence from Soviet rule. Kharkiv and Mykolaiv have also imposed curbs.

FIGHTING

* Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the slowing pace of Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine was deliberate and driven by the need to reduce civilian casualties.

* Russian air defences shot down an unspecified number of Ukrainian drones near the Crimean city of Sevastopol on Tuesday night, Sevastopol governor Mikhail Razvozhayev said.

* Reuters could not confirm the battlefield reports.

* Ammunition being stored in southern Russia near the border with Ukraine caught fire, the second such incident in a week, and an official said high temperatures were to blame.

DIPLOMACY, ECONOMY

* The United States will announce a new security assistance package for Ukraine of about $3 billion as early as Wednesday, a U.S. official said, in what would be the single largest tranche to Kyiv since Russia's invasion six months ago.

* The U.N. nuclear watchdog will visit the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine within days if talks to gain access succeed, it said.

* A total of 33 cargo ships carrying about 719,549 tonnes of foodstuffs have left Ukraine under a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to unblock Ukrainian sea ports, the Ukrainian Agriculture Ministry said.

QUOTE

"A new nation appeared in the world on Feb. 24 at 4 o'clock 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," Zelenskiy said in a national address marking Independence Day.

"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."

(Compiled by Robert Birsel and Gareth Jones)

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