Ukraine is celebrating its anniversary of independence with army parades in show of the country’s military force as the Kiev government continues to fight against pro-Russian armed groups in the east of the war-torn country.
The country, which declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, showcased a large military parade in the capital, Kiev.
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Ahead of the parade, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that Ukraine would be under constant military threat for the foreseeable future, announcing 40bn hryvnia ($3bn) would be spent on re-equipping the army.
Critics say the celebrations taking place during wartime is inappropriate and waste of financial resources, while some say the show of force will boost the morale of the army.
Pro-Russian rebels in the east of the country reportedly said that they were planning to hold their own celebrations.
The independence anniversary celebrations take place a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the country, promising about $700m (€500m) to rebuild devastation caused by the war.
Merkel’s visit took place ahead of a key meeting between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin on August 26.
Aid convoy escalates tensions
The West has repeatedly condemned Moscow and imposed various sanctions for invading Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula earlier this year and for allegedly supporting the pro-Russian fighters in Ukraine.
Further tensions between the West and Russia have been escalated after a Russian aid convoy entered Ukraine on Friday without the permission of the Kiev government in a move it called an “invasion”.
The convoy of trucks returned to Russian territory on Saturday amid strong pressure from the Western governments.
Among other leaders, US President Barack Obama and Merkel warned that the Russian decision to send in the convoy marked a “dangerous escalation“.
Kiev had expressed repeated fears that Russia may be using the vehicles to smuggle in weapons to pro-Kremlin rebels, a charge denied by Russia.