Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has announced that the country will now celebrate Europe Day on May 9, coinciding with Russia’s annual Victory Day military parade, one of the most important national holidays for Moscow.

From Tuesday, Ukraine will observe Europe Day every year “together with the states of the European Union,” Zelensky said in a statement released by the presidential office on Monday. The holiday was previously celebrated in Ukraine at the end of May, but the European Union has always celebrated Europe Day on May 9.

The day marks a “new form of political cooperation in Europe, which would make war between the nations of Europe unthinkable,” the bloc said. It falls on the same day as Russian Victory Day, which commemorates the Soviet victory over Nazi forces at the end of World War II.

Referring to nearly a decade of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, Zelensky said in a speech on Monday that “this will be the Day of Europe, which has stood by the Ukrainians during the nine years of aggression and the 439 days of the large-scale invasion.” scale. “

Volodymyr Zelenksy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (not seen) at Catshuis on May 4, 2023 in The Hague, Netherlands. Starting this year, Ukraine will observe “Europe Day” on May 9 “together with the European Union states,” Zelensky said.
P. van Katwijk/Getty Images

In 2014, Russia illegally annexed the Crimean peninsula to southern Ukraine and supported separatists in the eastern Donbas region when they broke away from kyiv. Ukraine is not a member of the EU, although it has candidate status and the bloc has provided support and aid to Kyiv against Russian forces.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, will meet Zelensky in Kiev on May 9, where she will “reaffirm the EU’s unwavering support for Ukraine” on Europe Day, the European Commission tweeted on Monday.

Monday’s announcement coincides with VE Day, also known as Victory in Europe Day, which marked the end of World War II in Europe.

“It is May 8 when most of the world’s nations remember the greatness of the victory over the Nazis,” Zelensky said in a statement.

Throughout the invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin has tried to justify its military operations as efforts against neo-Nazism in the Ukraine and in the Kiev government. This narrative has not been accepted by Ukraine or the international community.

A major national holiday, several Russian regions and Russian-controlled areas have canceled their early May 9 Victory Day celebrations as the war in Ukraine continues.

The Russian border regions of Belgorod and Kursk, as well as Crimea, cited security concerns over the cancellations.

On Saturday, Britain’s Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence update that 21 cities had canceled their military parades, although Moscow is not among that number.

“Moscow’s Victory Day celebration is likely to take place, but on a smaller scale,” the government department said, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not hold a traditional reception after the parade.

“It is likely that the potential for protests and discontent over the Ukraine war has also influenced the calculation of the Russian leadership,” the ministry said.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on Monday that Russia launched a barrage of missile and drone strikes across the country overnight, with damage reported in cities including Kiev and several regions of Ukraine, including the region south of Odessa.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said earlier in the day that it was “impossible” to be sure whether Russia would launch new strikes against Ukraine on May 9.

“There will always be the possibility of escalation, regardless of the date, for as long as the war lasts,” Maliar wrote on Telegram. “The fact that Russians like to give historical parallels, yes,” he added, saying: “But there were already a lot of historical and festive dates, up to which they ‘didn’t climb’.”

news week reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry by email for comment.

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