Ukrainians celebrate a day of unity on the same date Russia was supposed to attack
Ukraine celebrated Unity Day for the first time on Feb. 16, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky having declared the new holiday two days ago amid the threat of a Russian attack Ukraine – and on the day some had predicted Russia would invade.
“We are told that Feb. 16 will be the day of invasion. We will make it the Day of Unity,” Zelensky said in a video message to the Ukrainians on Feb. 14.
According to some U.S. media outlets, Feb. 16 would have been the probable date for the start of a possible Russian military invasion of Ukraine. U.S President Joe Biden warned that the threat of such an action would continue in the days and weeks ahead, in a special address on Feb. 15.
The day after, on Feb. 16, Ukrainian flags were raised across the country, the national anthem of Ukraine was played 1000, and numerous public events demonstrated the unity of Ukrainians both in Ukraine and abroad.
The ambassadors of the EU member states who have remained in Kyiv raised the Ukrainian flag as well, honoring the memory of those who died for its sovereignty.
“On this Unity Day, all the ambassadors of the EU member states paid tribute to the victims of this aggressive war of Russia, so that we can show that we are united with Ukraine, Ukrainians, we are united with each other,” the Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine, Matti Maasikas, told reporters.
Maasikas said the West would be able to counter the threat from Russia, since the EU countries have carried out “(more) preparatory work and coordination than ever before.”
“The areas where sanctions will be imposed are export restrictions, Russian financial institutions, energy and personal sanctions,” the ambassador said.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov also addressed Ukrainians when marking Unity Day.
“There will be no provocations from Ukraine, but there will be a tough response to attempts to provoke us," Reznikov said in a televised speech on Feb. 16.
“The Ukrainian army is fully prepared to carry out its tasks. I’m sure that enemy intelligence is well aware of this. The Kremlin also knows that the territorial defense forces are deployed around the clock. We are simultaneously creating 176 military units,” Reznikov said.
The minister said Ukraine would soon begin forming a territorial defense force of 130,000 people.
“Ukraine stands for peace,” Reznikov concluded. “We strive to solve all problems, return our people and our territories by political and diplomatic means. We are strengthening our territory every day, but we are not planning any aggressive actions either in the east, or in relation to Crimea and in our other directions. There will be no provocations from Ukraine, but there will be a tough response to attempts to provoke us.”
Ukrainian TV channels hosted the #UARazom (Ukraine together) telethon throughout the day.
“When Ukrainians are united, we always win,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a speech on Feb. 16.
“Today is the Day of Unity of all Ukrainians in Ukraine and the world. But also the Unity of Ukraine and reliable partners, which were revealed by the security crisis created by the Russian Federation. We are grateful to our true friends who are with us at this time not only in word but also in deed.”
The creator of Unity Day idea, President Zelensky, also addressed the Ukrainian people, who, in his words, “are united by a single desire – to live, to live in peace, to live happily, as one family, with children and parents.”
“We are at home; we are in Ukraine. And no one will love our house the way we love it. And only together can we protect our home. Happy Unity Day!”
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