Today, Ukraine celebrates its independence day marking the date that it officially separated from the Soviet Union in 1991.
In Kyiv, yellow and blue flags fluttered over the capital whilst crowds of people – some adorned in garlands of flowers and traditional embroidery – headed down to the main square, the place where just a few months ago protesters took to the streets and ignited a revolution.
In the separatist held city of Donetsk. the celebration was a different one. In a gross display of bravado, paralleling the Soviet parade of Nazi prisoners in 1944, rebels paraded Ukrainian prisoners of war and hostages through the streets. The roads were lined with civilians screaming “fascists” and chucking waste at the captives. A water tank followed the parade to ‘cleanse’ the streets of these fascist footprints.
But the parades and surreality are not limited to the East. In Kyiv, thousands of spectators lined the streets as columns of grads, ballistic missiles and armoured personal carriers rolled down Kreschatik — according a speech made by President Poroshenko, this “newly purchased or repaired” equipment would be continuing its journey from the capital to the front lines of the ATO zone. Formations of uniformed soldiers and policemen led the parade, goose-stepping down Kreschatik, whilst the national anthem and cries of “Glory to Ukraine” blared out from speakers surrounding the square.
The Nose spoke to ordinary Ukrainians to find out what their reaction was to the parade as well as the importance of celebrating their independence.
Olena Kucher, Ph.D student of the Institute of International Relations
“I think that this parade was essential given the current situation with Russia. We need to demonstrate that we have the army and we can defend ourselves. I have very positive feelings about the Independence Day. It is very important now as a reminder that we shall not obey to anyone. This raises our national spirit, self-determination and a sense of unity.”
Vadim Bistov, a fighter in volunteer battalion, Kiev 1
“This year is a special parade, as it will show the world our military power! It was led to raise the spirit of patriotism among our citizens, so that they know that the Ukrainian army is stronger than ever.”
Anna Piddubna, a student from Crimea
“I think the parade was inappropriate as all the equipment should be used in the ATO and not exhibited on the parade.”
Mykola Gnatovskyy, associate professor of international law at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv
“I watched the parade and listened to the President’s speech on TV. I am deeply touched by what I have seen and heard today.
For the first time in Ukraine’s modern history, I find such kind of celebration to be appropriate – even necessary. Some people say there is nothing to celebrate while hostilities are taking place in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions whilst people are people dying every day. Nonetheless, the parade is important precisely because Ukraine is now fighting a war for its real independence, a war against a ruthless and cynical enemy who is plainly denying the right of existence for the Ukrainian nation. We must use every chance to show our determination, our strength and our love for the Motherland. A military parade is not a bad way to demonstrate it to ourselves and to the entire world, including the aggressor state.
This Independence Day is indeed very special. Ukraine’s independence is no longer an abstract notion as it used to be for a significant part of the country’s population just a year ago. Putin’s aggression has triggered unprecedented examples of patriotism, heroism and devotion from all the layers of the Ukrainian society, from the poorest to the richest. Independence has now become a deeply personal matter for everyone. This sense of unity and of the nation’s identity is something that will not disappear.”
Yulia Pinchakovska, a lawyer from Lviv
“I think the parade was appropriate. The costs for its organisation were minimised, while people were showns military equipment that will go straight from the parade to the ATO zone in eastern Ukraine. This year, it has a different meaning; the people gained a true feeling that the exhibited equipment is the one used by real soldiers who risk their lives. Yes, the parade will not help those who are fighting in the east now. But such events raise patriotic morale of the people, give them a sense of unity and inspire for heroic deeds and help everyone around you.”