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Ukraine independence day: What is the national celebration and why does it matter?

Ukraine independence day: What is the national celebration and why does it matter?

Each year on August 24, Ukraine observes its national independence day celebrations.

It has been 18 months since Russian troops invaded Ukraine, making this the second year the celebration has taken place in wartime. Although the conflict shows no sign of easing, President Volodymyr Zelensky used independence day to congratulate Ukrainian troops and hailed his country’s “free people” in a display of resilience.

“Today we celebrate the 32nd anniversary of our independence – the independence of Ukraine. A holiday of free people,” Zelensky said on social media.

Messages from around the world are pouring in as countries show their support for Ukraine and its freedom.

But, what is the story behind Ukraine’s independence day? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is the date when Ukrainians celebrate their independence?

Ukraine marks its national independence day on August 24.

The nation had previously celebrated independence day on January 22 but changed the date to align with the first anniversary of the declaration of state sovereignty from the USSR. This marks when the country acquired a new legal system, military powers and its currency.

In 2023, the country will celebrate 32 years of independence from the Soviet Union.

Why does Ukraine celebrate independence day?

The day is Ukraine’s way of celebrating its independence from the USSR. The Soviet Union was collapsing in 1991, giving Ukraine the opportunity to declare its independence after almost 70 years of Russian control. It went on to adopt its own constitution in 1996.

Despite Ukraine’s globally recognised independence, Russian leader Vladimir Putin has continuously refused to acknowledge the existence of an independent Ukraine. So, the celebrations are likely to hit a nerve for the Russian leader.

Over the last decade, Russia has continuously chipped away at Ukrainian territories in an attempt to reclaim them as Russian. In 2014, conflict broke out in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and in neighbouring Luhansk pro-Russian forces were able to take de facto control of the region. Also in 2014, Crimea was occupied by Russian forces.

What’s happening to mark Ukraine’s independence day?

As with other years, Ukrainian communities around the world will be celebrating, with events taking place as far away as Australia and Canada, with the thousands of people displaced by the war taking part.

According to Visit Ukraine, martial law prevents any major celebrations from taking place in Ukraine, however, local events are expected to be held around the country. The website said there will be an exhibition of damaged enemy equipment in Kyiv, and Ukrainians will raise the national flag.

Zelensky issued a social media message in which he addressed the importance of keeping Ukraine independent.

“In this fight, everyone counts. Because the fight is for something that is important to everyone,” he reminded his followers.

Independence day and the war

The president’s resilient message and vow of independence come as the war shows no sign of ending.

Ukraine‘s military launched a counteroffensive in June 2023 to reclaim Russian-occupied territory across the south-east. While progress is slow, there have been advances despite Russian shelling.

Russia also appears to be embroiled in internal conflict among its political ranks, signaling that Putin is struggling to maintain an iron grip on his country. In July, the leader of Russia’s private Wagner army, Yevgeny Prigozhin, staged an attempted rebellion against the Russian leadership. On August 23 he was reportedly among 10 people killed when a private jet plane crashed near Moscow.