KYIV — Kyiv’s first counteroffensive against Russia’s influence occurred a decade ago, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on November 21 as Ukraine marked the 10th anniversary of the Day of Dignity and Freedom — the start of the Euromaidan protest movement that culminated with the ouster of Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych.
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“Ten years ago, we opened a new page in our struggle. Ten years ago, Ukrainians conducted their first counteroffensive — against lawlessness, against attempts to deprive us of a European future, against our being enslaved,” Zelenskiy said in a video address to mark the 10th anniversary of the start of what is known in Ukraine as the Revolution of Dignity.
Foreign dignitaries including European Council President Charles Michel, Moldovan President Maia Sandu, and German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius have traveled to Kyiv to meet with Zelenskiy and other Ukrainian officials on the occasion — and also to discuss continued support for Kyiv from its allies in the face of Russia’s ongoing full-scale invasion.
“Good to be back in Kyiv — among friends,”Michel said on X, formerly known as Twitter, posting a picture of himself shaking hands with the European Union’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Katarina Mathernova, at Kyiv’s railway station.
Together with Zelenskiy and first lady Olena Zelenska, “I honored all those who stood for freedom and those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Sandu wrote on X.
Thousands of protesters gathered in Kyiv’s Independence Square — Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Ukrainian — on November 21, 2013, to voice their outrage at Russia-backed Yanukovych’s move to scrap plans to sign an Association Agreement with the EU and his decision to build stronger relations with Russia.
The protest, which came to be known as the Euromaidan, expanded, despite several attempts by security forces to disperse it, and culminated with Yanukovych’s fleeing to Russia in February 2014.
One hundred and seven people were killed by security forces — most of them in February 2014 — and 2,500 others were wounded. The protesters who were killed came to be known in Ukraine as the Heavenly Hundred.
WATCH: Ukraine marks the 10th anniversary of the Euromaidan protest movement that erupted after then-President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an EU Association Agreement. Massive crowds of pro-European demonstrators occupied Kyiv’s central square for months to oppose Yanukovych’s plan for closer economic ties with Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to Yanukovych’s downfall by ordering the occupation of Crimea and fomenting anti-Kyiv sentiment across eastern and southern Ukraine, and war between government forces and Russia-backed fighters broke out in much of the Donbas in April 2014.
“I am here again, firstly to pledge further support,” Pistorius said as he started his second Kyiv visit, adding that he also wants to “express our solidarity, our deep solidarity and admiration for the courageous, brave, and costly fight that is being waged here.”
Low-intensity war continued in eastern Ukraine for eight years despite cease-fires and inconclusive mediation attempts by the West, until February last year, when the Kremlin unleashed an all-out unprovoked invasion of Ukraine that is about to enter its 22nd month.
Ukraine earlier this year started a counteroffensive to liberate territories occupied by Russia, but progress has been inconclusive so far.
The Kremlin on November 21 described the 2014 Ukrainian revolution that resulted in the ouster of Yanukovych as a Western-sponsored coup.
In his address, Zelenskiy praised Ukraine’s progress toward gaining membership in the European Union.
“Year after year, step by step, we do our best to ensure that our star shines in the circle of stars on the EU flag, which symbolizes the unity of the peoples of Europe. The star of Ukraine,” he said.
With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and dpa