President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has marked Ukraine’s Defenders Day holiday with a visit to troops deployed on the front line in the eastern region of Donetsk, where Ukrainian armed forces have been fighting Russia-backed separatists for more than five years.
Zelenskiy, who rose to the presidency earlier this year on promises to end the conflict, on October 14 thanked Ukrainian troops for their “bravery” in defending the country in a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people since April 2014.
The Ukrainian president also presented state awards to several Ukrainian soldiers and got acquainted with the situation along the line of contact, according to the presidential website.
In the capital, Kyiv, tens of thousands of people demonstrated on Independence Square, the Maidan, chanting nationalist slogans and decrying as “capitulation” a peace plan for eastern Ukraine that would include a pullback of heavy weaponry.
Zelenskiy’s embrace of the plan, known as the Steinmeier Formula, has drawn opposition from right-wing groups, some veteran groups, and activists in Ukraine.
Since 2015, the October 14 anniversary of the creation of the controversial Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) has been marked as the Defenders Day public holiday.
The UPA was founded in western Ukraine during the Nazi occupation and fought against both Soviet and Nazi forces during World War II.
When the war ended, many UPA fighters continued to fight a guerrilla campaign against the Soviet authorities into the early 1950s.
The UPA is also accused of carrying out murderous campaigns against Poles and Jews.
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