Ukraine’s independence day celebrations won’t have the usual fanfare as Russia persists in its invasion.
Aug. 24 marks the day when Ukraine’s parliament vowed to separate from the Soviet Union in 1991. The date this year will also mark six months since the war began.
Perhaps the most striking departure from past festivities has to do with the parade.
Instead of the Soviet-style events — a ritual that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had called wasteful — Ukraine’s military is lining the route with the burned-out husks of Russian military equipment.
“I think it’s appropriate, if sad,” Mykhailo Virchenko told NPR as he and his wife, Lubov, strolled past the installation on Sunday.
“We hope that we can celebrate independence without weapons in the future. Maybe with flowers and dances instead,” Lubov said.
Thousands of people walked along the way as more flat-bed trucks brought in their cargo. Children played on the cannon barrels, while friends took selfies in front of armored personnel carriers.
Exposed to the elements, rust coated the armor where people etched graffiti like “revenge for Mariupol” or “for Mykolaiv,” Ukrainian cities that Russia has attacked since February.
Ukrainian officials are warning civilians against gathering in major cities ahead of the holiday.
“Russia may try to do something particularly nasty, something particularly cruel,” Zelenskyy said during his Saturday evening address.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a top adviser in Zelenskyy’s office, said Russia would do whatever it could to make the people of Ukraine miserable.
“You’ll remember they said they’d march in downtown Kyiv within three days of invading. Here we are six months later, having demonstrated how weak Russia is compared to Ukraine. So they’ll want their compensation,” Podolyak said.
Ukraine’s Culture Ministry has confirmed there would not be any public celebration to mark the holiday. The current martial law prohibits large public gatherings.
Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images
“I think we can only celebrate once we win,” Valentin Paska, a Kyiv resident, told NPR. “I’m just going to work that day.”
Instead, the military will conduct private flag-raising ceremonies, and some of the capital’s monuments will be illuminated in blue and yellow, the flag’s colors.