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Ukraine's Poroshenko Strikes Martial Tone on Independence Day

  • Reuters

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (2nd R), Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak (R) and Polish President Andrzej Duda (L) attend Ukraine's Independence Day military parade in central Kiyv, Ukraine, August 24, 2016.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (2nd R), Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak (R) and Polish President Andrzej Duda (L) attend Ukraine's Independence Day military parade in central Kiyv, Ukraine, August 24, 2016.

Troubled Ukraine put on a show of its military strength on independence day on Wednesday and President Petro Poroshenko said the country had to rely on its own might rather than international guarantees.

A march-past of army, navy and airforce units and hardware in the capital was intended to highlight the capability of Ukraine's military, which the government has had to overhaul completely since pro-Russian eastern separatists rose up against a new Western-backed leadership in 2014.

Fresh tension with Russia over Crimea has reignited fears that the fragile ceasefire deal, brokered in February 2015 with the help of Germany and France, could collapse following the deadliest month of fighting in a year.

"From this parade, our international partners will get the message that Ukraine is able to protect itself, but needs further support," Poroshenko told a large crowd of civilians and military personnel.

"Our enemy is a country [Russia] which takes up a ninth of the world's land and has a military budget tens and tens of times larger than our own."

He said Ukraine's defense depended first and foremost on its own military, referring disparagingly to a 1994 agreement signed in Budapest by Russia, the United States and Britain, where they gave Ukraine security assurances in return for Kiyv giving up its Soviet-era nuclear weapons.

"Our main guarantor is the Ukrainian armed forces," he said.

His comments echo those of a number of Ukranian lawmakers from across the political spectrum who have lately said Western actions against Russia — including economic sanctions — failed to protect Ukraine.

Ukraine has received billions of dollars in financial aid from Western allies, including the United States, in exchange for promises to root out widespread corruption following its political pivot toward Europe.

However, patchy reform progress and signs that vested interests continue to influence policy have prompted warnings from Western backers and delayed the disbursement of loans over the past year.

Despite repeated requests, the West has also not given Ukraine any weapons, instead offering non-lethal military assistance such as training and equipment.

For its part, Kiyv has ramped up annual military spending to 5 percent of gross domestic product.

Poroshenko said it would take more time and money for Ukraine to fully protect itself from what he described as Russia's "imperial ambitions".

"We need years and tens of billions of hryvnias until we can sleep soundly," he said.

Earlier in August Russia, which denies accusations from Kiyv and NATO that it supports eastern rebels with troops and equipment, said Ukraine was trying to provoke a new conflict over annexed Crimea

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