Sunday, 24 August 2014

Ukraine in show of military strength

Ukraine conflict: Army parade to mark independenceSunday’s celebrations mark the 23rd anniversary of Ukraine’s independence after the Soviet Union collapsed

  • Fears in Sloviansk
Ukraine is to mark its independence day with a military parade in Kiev as fighting continues in the east.
The parade will feature hundreds of marching servicemen and military hardware. Critics say that it is inappropriate when Ukraine is at war.
Pro-Russian rebels in the eastern city of Donetsk – the scene of the heaviest fighting – say they will hold their own parade featuring imprisoned soldiers.
Four months of fighting in the east has left more than 2,000 people dead.
More than 330,000 people have fled their homes.
The military parades were rehearsed on SaturdayPro-Russian rebels in the east say that they will stage alternative independence day celebrations featuring captured Ukrainian servicemen
The bodies of six civilians, including a child, were witnessed by an AFP correspondent in Donetsk on Saturday.
Morale booster?
The conflict continues as Ukraine marks the 23rd anniversary of its independence from the Soviet Union.
Events which include a parade involving military hardware and several hundred service personnel are due to start in Kiev at 10:00 local time (07:00 GMT). A naval parade will be held in the port of Odessa.
They are the first military parades since the previous pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, abolished them in 2009.
A prayer will be said and wreaths laid for those who have died for an independent Ukraine, including those killed during protests against Mr Yanukovych in Kiev last winter.
Supporters say the parade should boost army morale but critics have questioned any show of strength as a waste of money and inappropriate when people are dying in the east.
Meanwhile security officials quoted by Ukrainian media said that five people accused of planning attacks on bases for pro-government volunteers in the Kiev area, timed to coincide with the celebrations, have been arrested.
In Donetsk, rebels put on display two destroyed armoured personnel carriers, and there are plans to parade prisoners of war through the streets.
Sunday’s celebrations come a a day after the German chancellor, Angela Merkel visited Kiev and met President Petro PoroshenkoThe chancellor and the president met as lorries from an unauthorised Russian aid convoy into the east crossed back over the border to return to RussiaRussia has been accused by Nato of amassing troops and tanks near its border with Ukraine
The events come a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged both sides in the conflict to strive for a new ceasefire.
During crisis talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, she also called for “effective border controls” while reiterating her support for Ukraine’s pro-Western leaders.
The “territorial integrity and wellbeing of Ukraine” was essential, Mrs Merkel said.
She cautioned that Russia – already subjected to punishing EU and US sanctions over its alleged interference in Ukraine – could face further punitive measures.
“We cannot rule out thinking about further sanctions if things do not progress,” Mrs Merkel told reporters.
The chancellor met Mr Poroshenko as a number of lorries from a Russian aid convoy which had crossed into eastern Ukraine returned to Russia.
The lorries had gone to the eastern city of Luhansk, which is held by pro-Russian separatists, despite not being authorised by Ukrainian officials or cleared for passage by the Red Cross.
Russia said they had delivered generators, food and drink.
The violence in the east erupted when pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions declared independence from Kiev
Mrs Merkel – who on Saturday announced a 500m-euro (400m) loan to Ukraine from Germany – is the most influential Western leader to visit Ukraine since fighting in the east broke out.
Key negotiations between President Poroshenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin and EU officials are due to take place in Minsk on Tuesday.
The violence in the east erupted when pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions declared independence from Kiev, after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March.
Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of arming the rebels and sending troops into eastern Ukraine – a claim denied by the Kremlin.
The BBC’s David Stern in Kiev says that Moscow’s unilateral decision on Friday to send in the aid convoy without Kiev’s permission has raised the tensions and the stakes.

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