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24 Aug, 2009 15:10

Independence day in Ukraine sees pro-Russian rally

Ukraine is marking 18 years since it declared independence from the Soviet Union. President Yushchenko addressed his people while the Autonomous Crimea takes to streets to protest the holiday.

Independence day celebrations included a church service and military parade in the capital Kiev. President Viktor Yushchenko congratulated the nation and presented his “strategic plan of national revival” of the country, which includes major projects on “restoring historic truth and memory”. The top goal should be “new informative policy” in order to promote the idea of nation’s unity, underlined the President. The second key thing-to-do is constitutional reform, Yuschenko said, this will help correct current disagreements and set order in the state. The plan also includes economic rehabilitation of the country.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoschenko also congratulated the Ukrainian people with the holiday and expressed hope, that “best sons and daughters of the nation won’t fold their hands and won’t stop until indeed free, independent, happy and mighty European Ukraine emerges on beautiful Earth.”

In a telegram to his Ukrainian counterpart Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin expressed hope the two countries will soon create friendly relations again.

This comes just two weeks after President Medvedev accused Ukraine of anti-Russian policies and said Kiev won’t see Russian ambassador until “positive dynamics in bilateral relations” are set.

Polls show 80 per cent of Ukrainians disapprove of their current leadership.


Crimea is the only autonomous republic of Ukraine. The primarily Russian-inhabited and speaking peninsula with the same name is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea. In 1783, Crimea was annexed to the Russian Empire as the result of war with the Turkish Empire. On October 18, 1921, the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was created as part of the Russian SFSR (Soviet Federative Socialist Republic). On February 19, 1954 Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev virtually gifted the peninsula to Ukraine. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Crimea became part of the newly independent Ukraine, a situation largely unexpected by its population, which was ethnically and culturally Russian for the most part.

But not the whole Ukraine was engaged in the festive events and some took alternative roots to mark the day. Around 700 people in the Crimea, that’s highly populated with the Russians, took to the streets of the capital Simferopol for a pro-Russian rally, shouting slogans of "With Russia, Forever", “Ukraine’s future in union with Russia” and “Ukraine – cancer on history and territory of Russia.”

Members of the rally has adopted a resolution, which states that independent Ukraine is product of Ukrainian nationalists and that it pursues policy of forced “ukrainization” of Russian people in the country and in the Crimea. The document also states, that Ukrainian government is for further Ukraine’s abruption from Russia in order to not to allow ties of brotherly Eastern-Slavic nations to be restored.

Meanwhile, Kiev is ready to ask NATO for help in countering a separatist climate in the Crimea, said Russia’s representative to the alliance, Dmitry Rogozin. This is the main reason why the “Additional Declaration on Individual Partnership” was signed between Ukraine and NATO.

“Analysis of the document shows that it was signed for one particular phrase, according to which Kiev has the right to call an urgent meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Committee in case of an ‘emerging threat to the territorial integrity of Ukraine,’” Rogozin said.

The document was signed on Friday by the secretary general of the alliance, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and Ukraine’s ambassador to NATO, Igor Sagach.