Ukraine Independence Day 2022

August 24 marks the Independence Day of (modern) (День незалежності України), celebrating the 1991 Declaration of Independence (Акт проголошення незалежності України). This was adopted in the aftermath of the coup attempt in the Soviet Union on 19 August, when hardline Communist leaders attempted to restore central Communist party control over the USSR.

In response (during a tense 11-hour extraordinary session), the Supreme Soviet (parliament) of the Ukrainian SSR, in a special Saturday session, overwhelmingly approved the Act of Declaration. The Act passed with 321 votes in favor, 2 votes against, and 6 abstentions (out of 360 attendants). The text was largely composed during the night of 23 August–24 August. Other than a noisy crowd that had gathered at the Parliament building, the streets of Kyiv were quiet that day, with few signs of open celebration.

On 26 August 1991, the Permanent Representative of the Ukrainian SSR to the United Nations (the Ukrainian SSR was a founding member of the United Nations), Hennadiy Udovenko, informed the office of the Secretary General of the United Nations that his permanent mission to this international assembly would officially be designated as representing Ukraine. That same day, the executive committee of Kyiv also voted to remove all the monuments of Communist heroes from public places, including the Lenin monument in the central October Revolution Square. The committee decided that the large square would be renamed Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) as would the central Metro station below it.

In the independence referendum on 1 December 1991, the people of Ukraine expressed deep and widespread support for the Act of Declaration of Independence, with more than 90% voting in favor, and 84% of the electorate participating. The referendum took place on the same day as Ukraine’s first direct presidential election; all six presidential candidates supported independence and campaigned for a “yes” vote. The referendum’s passage ended any realistic chance of the Soviet Union remaining together even on a limited scale; Ukraine had long been second only to Russia in economic and political power.

A week after the election, newly elected president Leonid Kravchuk joined his Russian and Belarusian counterparts (Boris Yeltsin and Stanislav Shushkevich, respectively) in signing the Belavezha Accords, which declared that the Soviet Union had ceased to exist. The Soviet Union officially dissolved on 26 December.

Poland and Canada were the first countries to recognize Ukraine’s independence, both on 2 December 1991. Also on 2 December, it was reported during the late-evening airing of the television news program Vesti that the President of the Russian SFSR, Boris Yeltsin, had recognized Ukraine’s independence. The United States did so on 25 December 1991. That month the independence of Ukraine was recognized by 68 nations, and in 1992 it was recognized by another 64 countries.

In January 1992, U.S. President George H. W. Bush approved a program of American humanitarian support for Ukraine and the rest of the former USSR, supervised by the Secretary of Defense.

Since 1992, the 24th of August has been celebrated in Ukraine as Independence Day.

Generally (but not every year) Independence Day is celebrated with the Kyiv Independence Day Parade (Парад в Києві на честь Дня Незалежності України). The first of these was held on Khreschatyk Street in 1994 on the country’s third anniversary. It was then held off and on in different formats. A large-scale aviation show on Independence Day took place at Kyiv Chaika Airfield in 1997, featuring fly-bys by personnel of the Ukrainian Air Force. In 1998, the parade included military vehicles for the first time since 1990.

On its 10th anniversary of independence of 2001, Kyiv held its largest parade to date including 173 pieces of equipment and 6,530 soldiers. Soldiers dressed in old Cossack uniforms were also at the parade. For the first time, there were parades in Lviv and Vinnytsia, Odessa, Chernihiv and Sevastopol. Russian president Vladimir Putin, Polish president Aleksander Kwaśniewski, and Macedonian president Boris Trajkovski attended the 2001 parade.

In 2021, Ukraine celebrated the 30th anniversary of its independence with three days of events. A company from Lviv developed a special 30th Anniversary logo and a new award known as the “National Legend” was announced, to be presented in a ceremony on August 22. It was also announced that the first Summit of the Crimean Platform would take place on August 23. A number of foreign leaders were invited to the 30th anniversary celebrations, including US president Joe Biden, Greek president Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda and Moldovan president Maia Sandu.

On 24 August a large military parade made its way through Kyiv past Maidan Nezalezhnosti, featuring Ukrainian Ground Forces, Special Operations Forces, and visiting units from several foreign armed forces. The parade included more than 5000 troops and 400 tanks and armored vehicles. The event also included a fly-by of Ukrainian Air Force units over Kyiv. Simultaneously, Ukrainian Navy units were shown carrying out exercises at Odessa. Visiting troops from Slovenia, Moldova, Poland, the United States of America and Canada marched with Ukrainian forces, and two British Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons took part in the fly-by alongside four F-16 Fighting Falcons.

Delegates from 46 countries attended, including Polish President Andrzej Duda, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, and Eastern Orthodox Church patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

Immediately prior to the parade, President Zelenskyy addressed the crowd, calling for closer relationships with other ex-Soviet countries, European nations, and NATO.

At the time of the 2022 Independence Day, Ukraine was approaching six months since Russian forces invaded, launching the on-going war. Warnings that Moscow might plan to disrupt Ukraine’s planned commemorations by attacking significant government and civilian targets caused unease in the country and prompted authorities to ban mass gatherings in Kyiv, and in the country’s second city, Kharkiv, and order residents to shelter indoors.

The U.S. reinforced those concerns when its embassy in Kyiv issued a security alert, saying it “has information that Russia is stepping up efforts to launch strikes against Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and government facilities in the coming days.”

Over the weekend, Kyiv residents flocked to a display of disabled Russian tanks and armor that had been hauled into the heart of the capital on flatbed trucks to celebrate the unexpectedly staunch fight put up by Ukrainian defenders in the war’s early days. The mood was jovial as children clambered on the hulking vehicles as parents and grandparents looked on.

But on Saturday night, Zelensky grimly advised compatriots that Russia might bombard civilian areas of the capital and other cities during the independence anniversary.

“We must all be aware that this week Russia could try to do something particularly ugly, something particularly vicious,” the president said in a video message. Still, on Tuesday he appeared in public for a ceremony marking Flag Day, presiding over the raising of a giant banner.

“The blue-and-yellow flag of Ukraine will again fly where it rightfully should be, in all temporarily occupied cities and villages of Ukraine,” Zelensky declared later.

August 23 has been celebrated as the Day of the National Flag (День Державного Прапора України) beginning in 2004. July 24 was previously marked as National Flag Day in Kyiv. The first ceremonial raising of the yellow-and-blue Ukrainian flag in modern times took place on July 24, 1990, at the flagstaff of the Kyiv City Council, one-and-a-half years before the flag was officially adopted as the National flag of the Ukrainian state (early 1992).

In recent weeks, explosions near fuel depots and other strategic sites in Crimea startled the Russian occupiers and gave way to speculation that Ukraine was launching the first salvos in a counteroffensive. In addition to occupying Crimea in the south, Russia has eked out gains in other Black Sea coastal areas — blocking critical shipments of grain to the world for weeks — and in the eastern Donbas region, where pro-Russia separatists have also been operating for several years.

Putin’s long-held design has been to expand Russia’s imperial glory by retaking Ukraine and its fertile fields and abundant mines, a land he believes does not merit being an independent nation. The ability of Ukraine to fight depends in large part on the resolve of its European allies — and that resolve is likely to be severely tested once winter sets in and they badly need Russian oil to stay warm.

Western sanctions have impeded some Russian exports, and oil and gasoline prices worldwide rose dramatically before finally beginning to stabilize. Analysts warn that winter demand could send prices soaring again.

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