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Thousands attend unofficial Independence Day march in Ukraine

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Thousands attend unofficial Independence Day march in Ukraine
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REUTERS
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Kiev was a sea of blue and yellow on Saturday as 20,000 Ukrainians, including soldiers and their families, took part in an unofficial Independence Day parade.

A mixture of active soldiers in uniform, ex-combatants and volunteers marched despite the controversial decision of the new President Volodymyr Zelensky to cancel the military parade.

REUTERS

Thousands of spectators cheered the marchers, many wearing traditional embroidered shirts that have in recent years have become a patriotic symbol.

"This march (...) shows the strength and spirit of our people," Iryna Goraï told AFP, holding a picture of her son killed in Ukraine five years ago.

REUTERS

"We have come to show our unity, it is nice to see so many people from all over Ukraine. We feel that we are not alone," said Olena Iechtchenko, widow of an officer.

This unofficial parade was organized by veterans in response to Zelensky's decision to cancel this year's military parade amid the ongoing conflict with separatists that has left nearly 13,000 people dead since it began in 2014.

The head of state, who has been in office for three months, promised to use the 10 million euros saved on the parade into bonuses for the Ukrainian military.

At an official ceremony in Kiev's central square, Zelensky presented medals to 30 military personnel and expressed hope for restoration of "peace" in the former Soviet republic.

REUTERS