Yesterday, Ukraine celebrated the hastily declared Unity Day with impassioned words from the president, patriotic events across the country, and more than 50 deputies singing the national anthem in front of parliament despite the concentration of Russian troops near their border.
President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded a militant display of patriotism late Monday night to mark a day that Western intelligence has warned could be chosen by the Kremlin to launch an invasion of his country.
However, the reaction of his besieged fellow citizens was muted – they woke up, fearing the worst, waved a few flags and went on with their lives, wearily finding themselves in the midst of the destructive geopolitical struggle that had gripped them for years.
Zelensky urged Ukrainians to “show the whole world our unity” to counter fears and panic over a possible attack by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived to watch Ukrainian troops take part in military exercises near the city of Rivne, northern Ukraine.
Children play on tanks displayed at the monument to the Motherland, while thousands of people across Ukraine celebrate the Day of Unity
Crowds of people sing the anthem of Ukraine in front of the Independence Monument in honor of the newly created National Unity Day.
Ukrainian army soldiers pose for a photo during a muster in Odessa, Ukraine, for National Unity Day celebrations on Wednesday.
At the request of the former humorist, flags appeared on the streets and in the windows, schoolchildren sang the anthem in traditional embroidered clothes, special prayer services in the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev and screenings of Ukrainian films in cinemas.
“We are all different, but we are united by one desire – to live together, happily, like one family – and we have the right to this, because we are at home, we are in Ukraine,” Zelensky said for five hours. television showing celebrities and politicians discussing the unity of Ukraine in the face of destabilizing Russian aggression.
The blue-shirted president also posted a selfie on Instagram with his wife, Olena, wearing a yellow jersey reflecting Ukraine’s national colors, and then asked everyone to post the same patriotic photos on social media.
Some of the country’s most famous footballers, including West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko and Everton’s dear new player Vitaliy Mykolenko, responded with a video in which they spoke of their pride in Ukraine.
British Ambassador Melinda Simmons tweeted: “The UK and Ukraine share the fundamental values of peace, freedom, democracy and respect. Our unwavering support for Ukraine is unwavering.”
Later, Zelenskiy flew to Mariupol, a major port that Putin saw as a key possible target, where he met with soldiers on the front line opposing Moscow-backed separatists. “It is a great honor to be the president of such people, such a state,” he said.
Further along the front line in Severodonetsk, a city in government-controlled part of Luhansk region, residents waved a 200-meter blue-and-yellow flag across the street to show their loyalty.
A group of people with Ukrainian flags gather to celebrate National Unity Day in Odessa, Ukraine.
Lasers and pixelated lights shine from five factory chimneys in Ukraine as citizens across the country celebrate the hastily announced Unity Day.
A group of people carry a large Ukrainian flag across the street as patriotic events take place across the country.
A Ukrainian servicewoman walks under a large Ukrainian flag carried by the people as citizens celebrate National Unity Day.
Two women wave Ukrainian national flags to mark Unity Day as more than 50 deputies sing the national anthem in front of parliament in defiance of Russian troops massed on their border.
President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded a militant display of patriotism late Monday night to mark a day that Western intelligence has warned could be chosen by the Kremlin to launch an invasion of his country. Pictured: APU soldiers posing for a photo
A long Ukrainian flag is unfurled at the Olimpiysky Stadium in Kiev after President Volodymyr Zelensky called for a National Unity Day.
The guards lined up during the ceremony of raising the State flag of Ukraine at the Odessa International Airport.
A family passes tanks displayed at the Motherland monument as citizens across the country take part in patriotic events.
People carry the flag of Ukraine, joining thousands of people across the country to celebrate National Unity Day.
The Kyiv City Hall building is lit up in the colors of the Ukrainian national flag as people across the country celebrate
Ukrainian soldiers take part in a military exercise near the city of Rivne in northern Ukraine as the country celebrates National Unity Day.
The building of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine was illuminated with the colors of the national flag in Kiev
Zelensky announced a holiday only on Monday. But there were no public holidays, which dampened support, while some people said they hadn’t heard of the plan and others had mixed reactions.
“I see no point in creating this show to please Western politicians,” said one pensioner in Kiev.
Others were more enthusiastic. “Unity Day helps bring people together,” said Vladislav, 19, who serves in the National Guard.
Lidmila, a 48-year-old housewife who said she avoids watching the news on TV because it makes her too “emotional”, believes her nation needs such events. “This is the right thing to do – we are being attacked, so we need to stay strong and united.”
The government said earlier that the cyberattack that hit the Defense Ministry, the military and several major banks on Tuesday was the largest in Ukraine’s history. Its sources have been found in Russia, China, the Czech Republic and Uzbekistan.
The outage, which lasted five hours, was supported by a foreign security service, Ukraine’s cybersecurity chief said. Russia denies any responsibility.
Additional reporting by Katya Baklitskaya