Ukraine leader stresses NATO, EU ties on independence day

Aug 24, 2021, 5:02 AM | Updated: 7:15 am
Polish President Andrzej Duda waves to people before a military parade to celebrate Independence Da...

Polish President Andrzej Duda waves to people before a military parade to celebrate Independence Day in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021. Ukraine mark the 30th anniversary of its independence. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s president on Tuesday urged closer ties between the ex-Soviet nation and NATO and the European Union in a speech marking the 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence.

Ukraine celebrated its independence day on Tuesday with a military parade and massive festivities in the capital Kyiv. Opening the parade, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that a strong Ukraine is “a country that dreams ambitiously and acts decisively.”

“Such a country becomes NATO’s Enhanced Opportunities Partner; such a country is officially supported by others when it applies to join the European Union,” Zelenskyy said.

Ukraine didn’t officially become independent until the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991. But like most of the 15 former Soviet republics, it declared its sovereignty immediately after the failed hard-line coup against reformist Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

On Aug. 24, 1991, the Ukrainian parliament adopted the Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine, reestablishing the country’s independence after more than 70 years of being part of the Soviet Union. Less than four months later, Boris Yeltsin and leaders of other Soviet republics declared the Soviet Union defunct and Gorbachev stepped down on Dec. 25, 1991.

The 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence came as the country is locked in a bitter tug-of-war with Russia, which in 2014 annexed Crimea and has since been backing a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine, and Kyiv’s efforts to shore up support among Western nations.

“Territories may be occupied, but one can’t occupy the people’s love for Ukraine. One can create a desperate situation and make people get (Russian) passports, but one can’t issue passports for their Ukrainian hearts,” Zelenskyy said Tuesday. “If some people in Crimea and Donbass (region in eastern Ukraine, controlled by Russia-backed separatists) are afraid to talk about it, it doesn’t mean they are afraid to think about it. They will come back, because we’re family.”

The center of Kyiv on Tuesday turned into a large venue for concerts and other festive events marking the anniversary. Thousands of people flocked to the central Maidan square, which over the past 30 years has been a rallying point for Ukrainians.

The popular uprising of 2013-2014, which ousted pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych and triggered the years-long confrontation with Moscow, started on Maidan square.

Delegations from 46 countries and blocs, including 14 presidents, attended the parade in Kyiv. The day before, they took part in the Crimean Platform summit called by Ukraine to build up pressure on Russia over the 2014 annexation of Crimea that has been denounced as illegal by most of the world.

The annexation and Moscow’s backing of rebels in the east of Ukraine, where more than 14,000 have been killed since 2014 in the fighting between separatists and Ukrainian forces, plunged Russia’s relations with the West to post-Cold War lows. The tensions rose once again this year after Russia increased troop numbers near its borders with Ukraine, including in Crimea, eliciting international outrage.

Russian President Vladimir Putin published an article last month, describing Russians and Ukrainians as “one people” and accusing the West of working methodically to rupture historic links between the two neighbors and to turn Ukraine into a key bulwark to contain Russia.

But polls in Ukraine show that the vast majority of Ukrainians support the independence of the country. If a referendum on Ukraine’s independence was held this year, 70.3% of the country’s residents would vote for it, according to a survey of the prominent Kyiv International Institute of Sociology.

“The generation of Ukrainians, born both in the west and the east of the country after it became independent, see themselves as a separate European nation that is not tied to the myths of the Soviet era and is indifferent to the Kremlin’s pleas about the common past,” the institute’s director, Volodymyr Paniotto, told The Associated Press.

Paniotto said that Zelenskyy’s generation, as well as younger Ukrainians, have a “pro-Western mindset and will determine Ukraine’s path for decades to come — from the Soviet past to a European future.”

Firefighter Serhiy Zhadko, 29, who came to watch the parade with his 7-year-old son, told the AP that “Ukrainians had to (go through) two revolutions in order to finally choose their path to Europe, but we’re ready to defend our choice.”

“Yes, there are lots of problems in Ukraine, there’s a war and poverty, but we look forward and not back on the Soviet past,” Zhadko, 29, said.

NATO and the EU keep mum about when Ukraine can become a member, despite Kyiv’s persistence. The EU only went as far as to sign a landmark Association Agreement with Ukraine in 2014, which stipulated free trade and visa-free travel between the two.

Ukraine’s Western allies expect Kyiv to keep pushing reforms, including in the judiciary, and the creation of effective anti-corruption mechanisms that would stem the endemic graft in the country.

“Ukrainian democracy is a work in progress which yet to learn the lessons of fighting corruption and to limit the influence of the oligarchs,” Ukrainian political analyst and head of the Penta Center think tank Volodymyr Fesenko told the AP.

“Western partners directly link the speed of (Ukraine’s) integration into Euro-Atlantic blocs with success in reforms and the fight against corruption,” he said.

___

Associated Press writer Daria Litvinova contributed to this report from Moscow.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


              Polish President Andrzej Duda waves to people before a military parade to celebrate Independence Day in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021. Ukraine mark the 30th anniversary of its independence. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

AP

President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress, at the C...
Associated Press

Transcript: Biden’s second State of the Union address

Transcript of President Joe Biden’s second State of the Union address, as prepared for delivery and as provided by the White House: Mr. Speaker. Madam Vice President. Our First Lady and Second Gentleman. Members of Congress and the Cabinet. Leaders of our military. Mr. Chief Justice, Associate Justices, and retired Justices of the Supreme Court. […]
21 hours ago
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on ...
Associated Press

President Joe Biden in State of Union attempts to reassure condition of nation

President Joe Biden called on Republicans in his State of the Union speech to work with him to “finish the job” of rebuilding the economy.
21 hours ago
FILE - A CSX freight train sits on a siding in downtown Pittsburgh, Nov. 19, 2022. Several thousand...
Associated Press

In a first, some CSX railroad workers to get paid sick leave

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Several thousand workers at CSX will soon get one of the things that pushed the U.S. railroad industry to the brink of a strike last fall: paid sick time. CSX announced a deal Tuesday with two of its 12 unions, becoming the first major railroad to offer that benefit that most […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Trudeau says Canadian health care isn’t living up to promise

TORONTO (AP) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that Canada’s health care system isn’t living up to its promise, and he plans to add billions more in funding. Trudeau said wait times in emergency departments have become dangerously long, people are waiting too long for essential surgeries and millions of Canadians are without […]
21 hours ago
Sen. David Parker, R-Olive Branch, presents legislation that would transfer ownership of the water ...
Associated Press

Jackson water system a step closer to getting new owners

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Jackson’s troubled water system could be one step closer to getting new owners after legislation passed the state Senate Tuesday. It’s the latest development in a crisis that has left residents of Mississippi’s capital without consistent access to running water and has aggravated divisions between the Democratic-led city and the Republican-controlled […]
21 hours ago
A shopper enters the Bed Bath and Beyond store in Coral Springs, Fla., on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. T...
Associated Press

Struggling Bed Bath & Beyond closing 150 more stores

NEW YORK (AP) — Bed Bath & Beyond said Tuesday it will be shuttering 150 more stores as the beleaguered home goods chain cuts costs as it works to stay afloat. The announcement came after the company based in Union, New Jersey, said it had raised about $1 billion through offerings of preferred stock and […]
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Ukraine leader stresses NATO, EU ties on independence day