Ukraine marked its 14th anniversary of independence on Wednesday, foregoing the traditional military parade for the first time to underline what the new leadership wants to celebrate as a peaceful holiday.
Thousands of Ukrainians gathered in Kiev's main Independence Square, decorated with orange flags, as folk groups performed.
President Viktor Yushchenko attended public prayers at the St. Sofia Cathedral in Kiev. Clerics from some 20 confessions took part, including Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who fueled a dispute with the dominant Russian Orthodox Church by moving his church's headquarters from western Ukraine to Kiev last weekend.
Yushchenko was expected to address the crowd in Independence Square later Wednesday.
The western-leaning reformer came to power last year amid mass street protests dubbed the Orange Revolution.
"I'm proud that I live in an independent state," said Ruslan Prylipko, a 38-year-old businessman. "With Yushchenko in power, I feel closer to Europe, to the civilized world."
Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said earlier this month that there would be no military parade this year.
"There is so much aggression in our life that we should mark the Independence Day with concerts and happiness" instead of a show of force, she said, reports the AP.
The Russian Defence Ministry acknowledged that the Americans treat Russian military men in Syria with respect. The Americans always warn Russia accordingly, but not Israel
After the incident with the shootdown of the Ilyushin Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea, Russia will supply an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Syria
Indeed, how dare they run US-independent policy? They should have followed the example of the European Union that turned independent states of the Old World into US-ditto entities