When did Ukraine gain independence? How country became independent from USSR - and date of Independence Day

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Authorities have banned large-scale gatherings over fears the national holiday might bring heavy Russian missile attacks

Ukraine marks its independence from the Soviet Union on Wednesday (24 August) and this year also marks six months on from Russia’s invasion of the country.

Residents of Kyiv woke up to air raid sirens as Ukraine observed its Independence Day.

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In previous years celebrations have been held including parties and parades, but this year the country is overwhelmed by a sombre mood as the Russian invasion continues.

Authorities in the capital have banned large-scale gatherings until Thursday (25 August) as they fear the national holiday might bring particularly heavy Russian missile attacks.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged the public to be vigilant.


What is Ukraine’s independence day?

This year marks 31 years since Ukraine broke away from the Soviet Union.

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On 24 August 1991, after a failed coup in Moscow, Ukraine declared its independence.

Around 90% of Ukrainians voted for their country’s independence following this declaration, on 1 December 1991.

There are many celebrations across the country to mark Independence Day, with some continuing for days after 24 August.

How long was Ukraine part of the Soviet Union?

Ukraine were under Moscow’s control for nearly 70 years.

The Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic was born in 1922 and under Soviet rule, Ukrainian identity was under constant threat.

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In 1932, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin deliberately imposed famine in the country, killing at least three million Ukrainians in a single year.

Ukraine officially became an independent state following the dissolution of the Soviet Union on 24 August 1991.

How is it celebrated?

Independence day is usually celebrated with parades and crowds of people in folk costumes, with some waving the Ukrainian flag.

Other events have included fireworks, concerts, free public fairs and circuses.

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However, this year there will be no parades or parties because of the threat of Russian attacks.

The head of Kyiv’s Military Administration, Maj. Gen. Mykola Zhyrnov, said events have been banned in the capital and other cities so that security forces can respond more efficiently to potential Russian attacks.

On the eve of the holiday President Zelensky warned that Ukraine might face “repugnant Russian provocations”.

He has urged citizens to take any air raid warnings seriously.

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A display of destroyed Russian tanks and other military equipment on the main street of the capital, Kyiv, has replaced the usual military parade through the centre.

AFP via Getty Images

Instead, drones will fly a giant national flag over the capital, which is largely locked down.

There is increased security and people who have been returning to their offices in the centre are urged to work from home.

What did Ukraine’s president say?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged the public to be vigilant.

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He said in a statement: “Please strictly follow the safety rules. Please observe the curfew. Pay attention to the air sirens.

“Pay attention to official announcements. And remember: we must all achieve victory together.”

In an emotional speech on Wednesday he said Ukraine was reborn when Russia invaded on 24 February and would recapture annexed Crimea and occupied areas in the east.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in front of podium Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in front of podium
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in front of podium | AFP via Getty Images

Zelensky said that Ukraine no longer saw the war ending when there was peace, but when Kyiv was victorious.

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He said: "A new nation appeared in the world on 24 February at four in the morning. It was not born, but reborn.

“A nation that did not cry, scream or take fright. One that did not flee. Did not give up. And did not forget.”

The 44-year-old wartime leader delivered the speech in his trademark combat fatigues in front of Kyiv’s central monument to independence from the Russia-controlled Soviet Union.

Zelensky vowed that his country would fight "to the end" without "any concessions or compromises" with "Russian terrorists".

He said: "We will fight for (our land) until the end.

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“We have been holding on for six months. It is hard but we have clenched our fists and we are fighting for our destiny.”

He added: "For us Ukraine is the whole of Ukraine. All 25 regions, without any concessions or compromises.

"What for us is the end of the war? We used to say: peace. Now we say: victory.”

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