Ukraine celebrated 26 years of independence on Thursday with a massive military parade in Kiev.
A march of army, navy and airforce units together with NATO members army divisions was intended to highlight the capability of Ukraine’s military and its partners.
The celebration coincided with a visit from US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis. He said Washington would keep up pressure on Russia over what he called its aggressive behaviour.
Happy to welcome James Mattis in Ukraine. Visit of U.S. Defense Secretary, first in the last 10 years, is a powerful symbol. pic.twitter.com/IPublCze8I— Петро Порошенко (@poroshenko) August 24, 2017
Mattis said Russia had not abided by the Minsk ceasefire agreement meant to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the US would maintain sanctions against Moscow.
“Despite Russia’s denials, we know they are seeking to redraw international borders by force, undermining the sovereign and free nations of Europe,” said Mattis.
Ukraine has counted on support from the US since a pro-Western government took power following street protests in 2014 when the Kremlin-backed president fled the country.
While the troubled country may be flexing its military might, President Poroshenko is relying on diplomatic efforts to push back against Russia’s aggression.
“Ukraine is ready to give a harsh military response to the aggressor and his attempt to launch an offensive. However, we proceed from the priority of peaceful, diplomatic and legal ways of returning Donbass and Crimea.”
Congratulations to Ukraine on your Independence Day! pic.twitter.com/Acxb9jOJfO— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) August 24, 2017
NATO in Ukraine (@NATOinUkraine) August 24, 2017