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Maidan revolution: Ukrainians mark anniversary of 2014 protests that ousted pro-Russian leader

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By Euronews  with AP
Demonstrators sing the national anthem during a protest in Odessa, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022, to mark the eighth anniversary of the Maidan revolution.
Demonstrators sing the national anthem during a protest in Odessa, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022, to mark the eighth anniversary of the Maidan revolution.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

Thousands of people in Ukraine turned out on Sunday to mark the date on which, eight years ago, over 100 people were killed during mass protests that ousted the country's Russia-friendly president

The people, known as 'The Heavenly Hundred' are commemorated each year on February 20, to mark the day in 2014 when riot police opened fire on protesters.

Ukrainians, including former President Pietro Poroshenko, laid wreaths at a memorial in Kyiv's Maidan Square.

The clashes which started on February 18 ended in the fall of the regime of President Viktor Yanukovych. "People who died here are our heroes and we have to remember them," one local resident said.

"We need to remember that people gave their lives for Ukraine and for our European future," said Pietro, a painter who was displaced from the Donetsk region and is now living in Kyiv.

Thousands of people in Ukraine's port city of Odessa also marched through the streets in a show of unity on Sunday, marking the date.

Waving national flags and placards with slogans such as, "Odesa is Ukraine" and 'No Putin, No Cry', people said they had come to demonstrate against a potential Russian invasion, and said that they were prepared to fight for their city.

"We want to show that citizens of Odessa as well as all of Ukrainians will support our sovereignty and will fight occupants wherever and whenever," said student, Oleksey Voronko.

The unrest began in November 2013 following the Ukrainian government's decision to suspend preparations for an association treaty with the European Union and to seek closer economic relations with Russia.

After the fall of the Yanukovych government, Russia annexed Crimea and and supported rebels in Ukraine's east in a conflict that has killed over 14,000 people since 2014.

The commemorations come as tensions mount in the region, with Western leaders warning that Russia was poised to attack its neighbour, which is now surrounded on three sides by about 150,000 Russian soldiers, warplanes and equipment.

Sunday was also the date Russia's military exercises were scheduled to finish, with a promised pullback of Russian troops from Ukraine's borders.

However Belarus' defence ministry announced that Russian troops would remain in Belarus indefinitely due to the "escalation of the situation" in the Donbas region.