President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday linked the historic pro-democracy protests in Kyiv a decade ago to the invasion of Ukraine, describing the Maidan square demonstrations as the “first victory” in Russia’s war.
The pro-European protest movement — in which nearly 100 civilians died in violent clashes with security forces in the capital — ultimately led to the ouster of Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych.
“The first victory in the war has now taken place. A victory against indifference. A victory of courage. The victory of the Revolution of Dignity,” Zelensky said in a statement marking the 10-year anniversary of the months that protest movement.
10 years ago, we started a new chapter in our struggle. 10 years ago, the Ukrainians launched their first counter-offensive. Against crime and an attempt to rob us of our future Europe. Against the lack of freedom.
Every year, step by step, we make every effort to ensure that,… pic.twitter.com/HkEarZkbJB
— Volodymyr Zelenskyy / Volodymyr Zelensky (@ZelenskyyUa) November 21, 2023
Maidan protests erupted in late 2013 when Yanukovych scrapped a trade association agreement with the European Union and subsequently sparked a separatist conflict in the east of the country.
Zelensky praised his country’s progress towards European Union membership since Russian forces launched a full-scale invasion in February 2022.
“Every year, little by little, we will do our best to ensure that our star shines in the circle of stars of the EU flag, which symbolizes the unity of the peoples of Europe. The star of Ukraine, “said he.
The EU executive recommended earlier this month that it opened formal membership talks with Ukraine and Moldova and suggested that the 27 member states of the bloc should grant candidate status to Georgia.
The Kremlin described the Maidan protests as an attempt to overthrow the government with the support of foreign powers.
“This is a coup. This is an overthrow of the authorities sponsored from abroad. Things must be called by their names,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday.
He said that Russia’s goal is to continue its invasion of Ukraine, after last year it announced the unilateral annexation of four Ukrainian territories, over which it still does not have full military control.
The United Nations meanwhile said on Tuesday that more than 10,000, including more than 560 children, have been killed and more than 18,500 injured since the Russian invasion.
The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine noted that the real number is likely to be “significantly” higher, due to complications in verifying the deaths.