Ukraine’s Bittersweet Independence Day by Linda Kinstler

2016 is a year of anniversaries for Ukraine, not all joyous: April marked the 30 years since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and September marks the 75th anniversary of the Nazi massacre at Babi Yar. It has been two years since Russia launched its surreptitious invasion of Eastern Ukraine. It is also the 25th anniversary of the failed Soviet coup of August 1991, an event that precipitated independence movements in Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, and the Baltics, but passed without much ceremony in Moscow last week.

Wednesday also marked the 25th anniversary of Ukraine’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union, when the country’s border with Russia became an international boundary. Last year’s independence day festivities were marred by bloody clashes between Ukrainian and separatist forces in the east. A recent uptick in fighting has stoked fears that the same will be true of this year’s commemoration, especially after the Kremlin announced a new round of war games in the Black Sea earlier this month. “We have to walk through the 25th year of independence as if we are on thin ice. We should understand: The slightest misstep can be fatal,” Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko warned on this date last year. This week alone, at least nine people are said to have been killed in fighting. On its hard-won independence day, Ukraine finds its self-determination under attack.

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