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Ukraine Marks Independence With Show Of Force

Ukrainian Independence Day takes on special significance in Kiev, as the country continues to fight separatist rebels in the east.
Posted at 9:47 AM, Aug 24, 2014

As fighting rages on in the country's east, Ukraine is celebrating its independence with a military parade and promises of big military spending to come. 

It wasn't exactly a subtle message as troops marched down the streets of Kiev in the country's first military parade since 2009— the displays were banned under pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych. (Video via Sky News)

Current president Petro Poroshenko, decidedly anti-Russian, announced in a speech Sunday his government would boost military spending by $3 billion, over the span of the next three years. (Video via President of Ukraine)

DAVID STERNBBC CORRESPONDENT: "He said the country was fighting a real war in the east from an aggressor, from outside aggression. Now he didn't name Russia per se, but obviously people here interpreted that."

That big show of force comes just two days before Poroshenko is set to meet with the man his administration blames for encouraging the rebels, Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

The two are scheduled for talks in the capital of neighboring Belarus, to look for a diplomatic solution to the months-long conflict in Ukraine, which has killed more than 2,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians.

And perhaps in preparation for that meeting, German Chancellor Angela Merkel — who has played mediator before in the conflict — was also in Kiev this weekend. (Video via Deutsche Welle)

The main thrust of Merkel's visit, as the Kyiv Post reports, was to announce a 500 million euro restoration plan for Ukraine's Donbas region, which has been hard-hit by fighting, and a plan to treat wounded Ukrainian soldiers in German hospitals. 

The military parade, on top of being a show of force, provided an effective visual to accompany the military spending announcement, with many outlets running headlines about the parade instead of the spending boost. 

Still, as The Guardian reports, the parade wasn't without its critics, with some calling it, "a waste of money and a dangerous diversion while the country is at war."

And then there was news of the rebels' own parade. 

CNN CORRESPONDENT DIANA MAGNAY: "They will parade captured Ukrainian weaponry, tanks, APCs, on the streets of Donetsk also, any prisoners of war that they have captured." 

Still no reports on whether that parade has taken place yet. The celebrations mark the 23rd anniversary of Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union. 

This video contains an image from Nigel's Europe & beyond / CC BY SA 2.0