While previous years have been marked by celebrations and parades, Wednesday’s Remembrance Day comes exactly six months after Russia’s invasion began.
President Volodymyr Zelensky marked the day with an emotional speech that spoke of the Russian invasion as a new Independence Day — a day when Ukraine would have to fight for its independence rather than vote at the ballot box.
“A new nation rose at 4 a.m. on February 24, not born, but reborn. A nation that didn’t cry, didn’t scream, didn’t fear. Didn’t run. Didn’t run. Didn’t give up. Didn’t ‘forget,'” Zelensky said Wednesday.
He added: “Each new day is a new reason not to give up. Because after so much has passed, we have no right not to reach the end. What is the end of the war for us? We say: peace. Now we say: victory.”
The head of Kyiv’s military administration, Major General Mykola Zhirnov, said events in the capital and other cities were banned so that security forces could respond more efficiently to Russian attacks.
Instead of a parade, wrecked and captured Russian military vehicles, including tanks, were placed on Khreshchatyk, Kyiv’s main street, a testament to Moscow’s failure to capture the capital in the early weeks of the war.
On the eve of Independence Day, a crowd was seen in Khreshchatyk, surveying the scene. Some children crawled over the rusted metal carcass of the tank, while others posed for pictures by the mangled vehicles.
Lyubov, who asked not to give his last name, said he came to show his 8-year-old son, Ilya, a “scrap metal parade.”
As Illya boarded a Russian combat vehicle, Lyubov described the parade as “symbolic,” adding, “A lot of people in Kyiv (have forgotten) about the war, so I think it’s a good reminder.”
Her husband, who was fighting on the front lines, asked her to move to a summer home 50 kilometers (31 mi) away from the capital. But she refused to go.
“Even if there were massive missile attacks in Kyiv (Wednesday), we will not leave,” he said, adding that he has an emergency bag at home, with enough clothes and overalls “in case of radiation contamination … missiles. We are not so easily scared by them anymore.”
“I don’t feel (Independence Day) festive, rather sad,” he added. “Because I understand what’s going on, my husband and brother are on the front lines.”
Holding a Ukrainian flag, another CNN viewer also has relatives fighting against Russia.
“My father is on the front line, many of my relatives are on the front line … So tomorrow is not a celebration, but to honor and feel freedom, because this time will be different than the previous 30 years. Daria, 35, refused to give her last name.
‘It Tears Me Apart’
In Khreshchatyk, a Ukrainian war-spoiled area, many who spoke to CNN shared concerns about a possible Russian attack on Wednesday.
“We planned to come here tomorrow, but there were a lot of warnings about tomorrow, so we will stay at home,” said Ole Fedir, 51, who visited the parade with his wife.
“(The Russians) spoiled the celebration for us, so we came here to see the junk metal parade. Last year on Independence Day we were here watching the parade of (Ukrainian) military equipment with airplanes and it was magnificent. Now, the current parade is very interesting and there are no photos of the people inside. ,” he says, referring to the Russian soldiers.
After six months of conflict that has crippled Ukraine’s economy and disrupted every aspect of daily life, the exhaustion is palpable.
Oleksii, 29, explained that he was worried about the launch of missiles in the capital, saying, “I don’t feel festive about tomorrow, I’m not in a festive mood.”
“My hatred of Russians has become so great that it is tearing me apart,” said Anna, 68, who declined to give her last name for security reasons.
The clinic where she works has asked her to work remotely for the next few days. “I’ve worked (throughout) the war … sometimes coming home under shelling,” he said.
He described Russian President Vladimir Putin as unpredictable and “like a monkey with a grenade”.
“He says one thing, does something different, and nobody can guess what’s really on his mind,” he said.
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