AT 6:30am yesterday morning, the air raid sirens rung out here in Kyiv. Is this it, I thought?

Like most folk across the city, I was bracing myself for a possible renewed Russian missile or rocket attack as Ukraine marked both Independence Day – recognising 31 years of freedom from Soviet rule – and the six month point in the war after Russia’s invasion on February 24 this year.

As I write this. the streets outside are noticeably quiet, in part because of the public holiday but also because of the threat that’s sure to linger over the coming days. Usually, there is a massive parade thorough Kyiv city centre at this time of year, but public events have been banned over concerns they could become a target.

Only the display of destroyed Russian armoured vehicles laid along Kyiv’s main street, Khreshchatyk boulevard, by the Ukrainian authorities has drawn crowds, but those thinned as yesterday’s anniversary arrived. People here are paying that bit more attention to the curfews and siren warnings that have become commonplace across the country.

The National: Khreshchatyk boulevard near Independence Square. Pic: David PrattKhreshchatyk boulevard near Independence Square. Pic: David Pratt

Make no mistake about it, the six-month marker in this already bloody struggle matters for numerous reasons. The first is that few would have believed back in those desperate early days of the war in February and March that Ukraine would have held fast the way it has. Some of the best military experts and analysts around were already writing Ukraine off back then, as Russian tanks and troops sat at the gates of Kyiv.

Not only has Ukraine proved them wrong but six months into this bitter war, it shows no signs of wavering in its commitment to kick back against Russia no matter what the Kremlin decides to throw at the country.

Those six months matter too because, to date, Ukraine’s allies in the region and the west continue to steadfastly stand in support, something ordinary Ukrainians place enormous importance on. The value of that support in the eyes of Ukrainians cannot be over emphasised.

Earlier this week on Ukraine’s National Flag Day, which precedes yesterday’s independence anniversary, I found myself in the company of a Ukrainian photographer colleague and her husband who live in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv.

The town, as I’m sure readers are aware, is the place where some of the worst atrocities of the war so far took place at the hands of Russian troops. On the few visits to Bucha I’ve made since my return to Ukraine, I’m always amazed at how quickly people are rebuilding their homes and pulling their lives back together.

Over dinner, my colleague and her husband reiterated time and again their gratitude for the support given by allies including the UK. They’re far from unique in their resounding thanks.

Daily, those Ukrainians I meet never fail to express the same sentiments even if they also worry that such support might wane and allies become weary of the war while mistakenly holding Ukraine to blame for increases in energy prices or other impacts the conflict might have far beyond Ukraine’s borders.

Ukrainians are all too aware of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hopes that the economic sanctions imposed on Russia will backfire and force the west to blink first because of reliance on Russian energy. They know too the dangers of this leading to a potential drying up of US and European military support for Ukraine and pushing Kyiv to sign a deal that ratifies Russia’s territorial gains.

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Those of us who count ourselves as allies of Ukraine in their fight against Putin’s aggression should at this six-month juncture pause and take stock of such concerns.

We must move to reassure Ukraine that Europe far from turning away is instead doubling down on its support. This makes every strategic sense not least given that Russia has been forced lately to think again on the battlefield and what its long-term ambitions might be since its invasion But while Moscow’s forces have taken a few setbacks on the ground recently, the inescapable fact remains that neither side still has the immediate upper hand.

In the same way that Ukraine still talks of a counter offensive in the south around Kherson which Russia still holds, so Russian artillery still holds off Ukrainian attempts to claw back territory there and elsewhere in in Donbas.

Almost every day the port cities of Mykolaiv near Kherson and Odesa suffer repeated shelling but still they remain under Ukrainian control.

Short of a dramatic turn in events, there is increasing talk of a battlefield stalemate setting in between the two foes with neither side advancing nor conceding much territory.

Those same military analysts quick to write off Ukraine in the early days of the war are now left pondering what the next six months will bring and more immediately what the impact will be of what Russians call “Rasputitsa” the notorious muddy season that makes unpaved roads difficult before winter arrives.

Most experts believe that what follows will be a “war of attrition,” and face off across much of the 1500-mile frontline where the Russians are already digging themselves in for the winter ahead.

In this trench strewn landscape of artillery or rocket duels, and in Ukraine’s battered coastal cities, the fog of war will continue to hover over the region. There will, of course, most likely be more glimpses of hell to come in a war that has proved costly for both Ukrainians and Russians alike.

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Right now, neither side has shown much willingness to negotiate any ceasefire let alone a peace of sorts and neither side is giving up even if reports and evidence of corrosion within the Russian ranks grows daily.

Those Ukrainians I’ve talked with over the past few days remain convinced that victory – whatever that means – will ultimately be theirs, but admit too that continued support from allies is vital if this is to be achieved.

Yesterday – Wednesday – on Ukraine Independence Day, the air raid sirens have rung out another four times since I first sat down to write this piece. Still Kyiv waits and wonders what might yet come by way of attack.

Six months of war have now passed and whatever the hours and days have in store, one thing is certain, the winter months that lie ahead are sure to be just as long, hard and bloody.