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Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

Aug 24 (Reuters) - Ukraine was "reborn" when Russia invaded six months ago, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday, marking 31 years of his country's independence from the Moscow-controlled Soviet Union with a vow to drive Russian forces out completely.

INDEPENDENCE DAY

* Zelenskiy told Ukrainians in an emotional speech that their country 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.

* The Russian-installed head of the Ukrainian town of Mykhailivka in the Russian-controlled part of Zaporizhzhia region was killed in a car bomb on Tuesday, an official in the region's Russian-backed administration said.

* 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

* U.S. President Joe Biden marked Ukraine's Independence Day with a new security assistance package of about $3 billion in military aid for Kyiv in its war with Russia.

* Pope Francis called for "concrete steps" to end the war in Ukraine and avert the risk of a nuclear disaster at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia plant.

* After half a year of war in Ukraine, a slim majority of Americans agree that the United States should continue to support Kyiv until Russia withdraws all its forces, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll.

* Russian opposition politician Yevgeny Roizman was shown being detained at his home in a video published on social media, in the latest move by authorities to punish critics of the war in Ukraine.

QUOTE

* "Today would normally be filled with joyful concerts, picnics and parades, held under a blue Ukrainian summer sky ... But the dark shadow of Russia’s brutal war of aggression remains a heavy burden," said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

(Compiled by Gareth Jones)

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