Zelensky hails Ukrainians as 'free people' on Independence Day

AFP , Thursday 24 Aug 2023

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised his people for fighting for "freedom" in an address Thursday to mark the country's second Independence Day during the Russian invasion.

People wearing traditional Ukrainian clothing pose for photos next to destroyed Russian armoured military vehicles on display in Khreshchatyk street on Ukraine s Independence Day in Kyiv, on August 24, 2023. AFP


"Today we celebrate the 32nd anniversary of our independence -- the independence of Ukraine. A holiday of free people," Zelensky said in an statement on social media.

Freedom "is a value for each of us, and we are fighting for it," Zelensky said as the war in Ukraine enters its 19th month.

The country's military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov said on Telegram that the fight for independence "continues to this day -- now with the imperial aggressor" Russia.

Kyiv's security service chief Vasyl Maliuk also said on Telegram that the holiday had taken on "new meanings" during the war with Moscow.

"It became not only the personification of our right to life and freedom, but also a symbol of heroism and bravery," Maliuk said.

A series of events are planned across Ukraine to mark the day.

In Brussels, EU government buildings were lit up in the blue-and-yellow colours of Ukraine overnight, and Ukrainian flags were hoisted along EU ones.

EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen commended Ukrainians for their "courage, their force and enduring hope in a future of peace and prosperity in a united Europe".

"They are an inspiration to all Europeans," she said on social media.

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