MOSCOW, August 24 (RIA Novosti) - Amid clashes in southeastern Ukraine, the country celebrates its Independence Day with military parades held in Kiev, Odessa and the cities where the headquarters and operation command offices of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are located.
August 24 marks Ukraine's national holiday, Independence Day. This day marks the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence of Ukraine by the Verkhovna Rada of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic on August 24, 1991.
Initially, July 16 was declared Independence Day in the country. The date was chosen because on the same day in 1990, the Verkhovna Rada (Supreme Council) of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic passed the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine. The first celebration of Declaration of Independence Day took place on July 16, 1991.
However, in 1992 the holiday was moved to August. The decision was made on February 20, 1992 by a resolution of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to confirm “the historical significance of the Declaration of Independence of Ukraine.”
The Declaration of Independence of Ukraine was passed at an extraordinary meeting of the Verkhovna Rada of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in response to the political events in the Soviet Union on August 19, 1991 (the August Coup). The document declared Ukraine an independent democratic state and its territory indivisible and sovereign, its Constitution and laws having exclusive legal force. The declaration took effect upon its approval.
At the same time, the Resolution on the Declaration of Independence was adopted, which scheduled a referendum to confirm the declaration for December 1, 1991. The nationwide poll included just one question: “Do you endorse the Declaration of Independence of Ukraine?”
Some 90.32 percent of Ukrainians gave a positive response, with 7.58 percent against. The participation rating was 84.18 percent.
On December 2, before the referendum results were officially announced, Canada and Poland recognized the independence of Ukraine, followed by Hungary on December 3. On December 4, after the Central Election Commission of Ukraine summarized the result of the popular vote, the country’s independence was recognized by Latvia and Lithuania, and later, on December 5, by Argentina, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Croatia and Russia.
During the first month following the referendum, Ukraine was recognized by 57 states, and by 130 over the course of the first year.
On June 5, 1992, Article 73 of the Labor Code of Ukraine was amended to include August 24 on the official list of national holidays and non-working days. The First Constitution of the independent Ukraine was passed by the Verkhovna Rada on June 28, 1996.
In the lead-up to Independence Day and National Flag Day of Ukraine, Kiev and other cities and towns hold national flag-raising ceremonies.
The official celebration takes place in Kiev, where the president of Ukraine traditionally hosts a reception to mark Independence Day. The high-level officials lay flowers at memorials to prominent Ukrainian public and official figures. Churches across the country hold prayer services for Ukraine, and other celebratory events and concerts are held.