POKROVSK, Ukraine—Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned of a possible escalation by Russia ahead of Ukraine’s Independence Day as Moscow opened an investigation into a car explosion that killed the daughter of an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We should be conscious of the fact that this week Russia may try to do something particularly nasty,” the Ukrainian leader said in his daily video address late on Saturday. “But Russia has done the same constantly each week throughout the past six months.”
Mr. Zelensky didn’t give details in his speech as to what he believed Moscow was planning, but tensions have been rising amid suspected Ukrainian attacks on military infrastructure on the Russian-controlled Crimean Peninsula and on Russian territory close to the border with Ukraine.
Officials in Kyiv have warned that Russia could stage renewed attacks to coincide with Independence Day on Wednesday, a major national holiday that will be taking place for the first time since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February. Any large gathering creates a possible target, meaning the military parades of the past are out of the question, and no official celebrations are expected during this year’s anniversary.
In the northeastern Kharkiv region, part of which remains under Russian occupation, governor Oleh Synehubov announced a series of restrictions on movement this week including a 36-hour curfew beginning on the eve of Independence Day on Tuesday until early morning on Thursday.
“Please treat such steps with understanding and prepare to stay at home or in bomb shelters—this is our security,” he wrote on the Telegram social-media platform. “We won’t give the enemy the chance for any provocations. On the day of our independence we will be particularly alert.”
As the war nears the six-month mark, Russia is increasingly feeling the fallout. Strikes on key military facilities in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Russia annexed in 2014, have brought the war close to home for many Russian citizens. They have also forced Russian-installed officials in Crimea to increase security, potentially drawing some forces away from the front lines in Ukraine.
While Ukraine hasn’t officially taken responsibility for the attacks, Ukrainian officials have privately confirmed Kyiv was behind the incidents. Footage posted to social media overnight into Sunday showed what appeared to be Russian air defenses firing from the peninsula, accompanied by comments from locals expressing surprise at the spectacle.
On Saturday evening, a car carrying the daughter of prominent Russian far-right ideologue Aleksandr Dugin was blown up outside Moscow. Daria Dugina was killed on the spot, and footage posted to social media later showed Mr. Dugin at the scene, holding his head in his hands as he stood amid what appeared to be debris from the explosion.
Mr. Dugin had for years called on Russia to expand its territory and re-establish its empire by seizing Ukraine. In 2014, as Russian-backed separatists were capturing government buildings in eastern Ukraine and Moscow fomented an armed conflict there, Mr. Dugin called for full-scale war against Russia’s neighbor. His daughter had been a key supporter of Eurasianism, Mr. Dugin’s unique brand of Russian nationalism. Mr. Dugin had met with French politician Marine Le Pen and other far-right leaders in Europe.
The U.K. government in July imposed sanctions on Ms. Dugina, describing her as “a frequent and high-profile contributor of disinformation in relation to Ukraine and the Russian invasion of Ukraine on various online platforms.”