This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
President Petro Poroshenko has marked Ukraine’s Independence Day by announcing at a military parade in Kyiv that his country “has cut all ties with the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union.”
Poroshenko also said during the August 24 event that Ukraine needs to cut all ties with the Russian Orthodox Church “that blesses” Russia’s “hybrid war against Ukraine.”
“Our generation’s major goal is to make our independence irreversible, to turn Ukraine into a strong and great country without the possibility of returning to the zone of Russian influence,” Poroshenko said.
“The issue [of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s split from the Russian Orthodox Church] is of the same importance as such issues as strengthening of our army, defending our language, our struggle to join the European Union and NATO,” he said. “That is another aim of our historic path, a significant component of our independence.”
Some 4,500 soldiers, 250 military vehicles, and 18 units comprised of 300 foreign troops took part in the parade, which also featured women who are in Ukraine’s military forces.
Dispensing with a traditional Soviet-era military greeting used in previous years, Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak greeted the marching troops by declaring, “Glory to Ukraine!” The troops replied: “Glory to the heroes!”
Poltorak’s greeting had been used by Ukrainian nationalist troops who fought for Ukraine’s independence during World War II.
Poroshenko announced that he will propose that parliament pass legislation to make the expression the official military greeting in Ukraine.
Ukraine announced its independence from the Soviet Union on August 24, 1991, almost four months before the official dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Ties between Ukraine and Russia have worsened since Moscow illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region and instigated a conflict between pro-Kremlin separatists and Ukrainian armed forces in eastern Ukraine in 2014.