Kiev, Aug 24 (IANS) The Ukrainian President here on Wednesday reassured his countrymen that the country remained strong despite two years of war.
In his speech at Maidan square, in central Kiev, ahead of the 25th Independence Day parade, Petro Poroshenko said armed separatist fighters had not made any progress in Ukraine, Efe news reported.
“Looking back at more than two years of war, we can conclude that the enemy has failed to make any strategic gains… it has not brought Ukraine to its knees,” the President said.
He added that 2,504 Ukrainian soldiers had died in the conflict against pro-Russian rebels and Russian soldiers in the country’s east.
Poroshenko praised the increasing professionalism of the Ukrainian armed forces in countering separatist groups in the eastern Donbass region and said some 300,000 people have participated in the country’s defence since the outbreak of war in 2014.
Ukraine’s initial military response was led primarily by voluntary factions. However, in 2016, around 75 per cent of the Ukrainian fighting forces comprised regular soldiers, Poroshenko said.
Referring to Russia, he said “our enemy is a country that occupies a ninth of the Earth’s surface and whose military budget is dozens of times greater than our own”.
He added that the European Union-Ukraine Association Agreement, signed in 2014, had eased the catastrophic losses incurred in the conflict.
In the Donbass region, the conflict between Ukrainian armed forces and pro-Russian separatists was ongoing.
According to figures released by the United Nations, the conflict in the eastern regions of Ukraine has claimed around 10,000 lives since 2014.