Ukraine celebrates anniversary, but tension with Russia remains

Celebrating an important anniversary, Ukraine has touted its strong ties with the United States while warning Russia poses a continuing threat to national and international security.

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It comes amid the government’s growing fears of a closer relationship between the United States and Russia and the increasing fragility of a ceasefire.

On the anniversary of the downfall of the previous Ukrainian administration, president Petro Poroshenko has expressed praise for the new United States government.

And he has welcomed the contact he says has been established between his government and the government of US president Donald Trump.

“Currently, I’m satisfied with how bridges are being set and the dialogue with the new US administration has been established. Also, we had two extremely effective phone conversations with the president of United States of America, Donald Trump. At the same time, I’m very disappointed by some Ukrainian politicians who engage lobbyists in Washington, plotting and resisting against our diplomats who are working on improving the Ukraine-US partnership.”

But he was quick to express his concern about neighbouring Russia, citing alleged cyber attacks and warning Europe, as he put it, “how insatiable the appetite of the Russian Federation is.”

Mr Poroshenko says thousands of Russian troops and military vehicles remain stationed at the Ukraine-Russia border.

His remarks come as thousands of nationalists have marched through Kiev to mark the third anniversary of an uprising that toppled the government of Viktor Yanukovich.

Soon after that uprising, Russia annexed Crimea, and a separatist conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine.

Protesters say the only answer is to cut off relations with Russia altogether.

And they are not happy with the direction the Poroshenko administration has taken.

“Three years ago on February the 22nd, Yanukovich fled. We thought that, perhaps, the current authorities would also run away, because we are not satisfied with their performance. There has been no improvement. It has become even worse, compared to what it used to be. The army still has no resources, just like before. People have become three times poorer, and the authorities are not doing anything.”

Both sides have continually violated a 2015 bipartisan agreement aimed at ending the conflict.

Addressing the UN Security Council, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has repeated the Trump administration’s commitment to work more closely with Russia.

But she has also called on Russia to help return peace and stability to the Crimean peninsula.

“The United States thinks it’s possible to have a better relationship with Russia. After all, we confront many of the same threats. But greater cooperation with Russia cannot come at the expense of the security of our European friends and allies. That is why the United States calls on Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. That is why we continue to urge Russia to show a commitment to peace by fully implementing the commitments under the Minsk Agreement and ending its occupation of Crimea.”

The head of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Lamberto Zannier, has expressed doubt over a ceasefire in Ukraine.

He says he is still getting reports of weapons and explosives being used in the east.