Donetsk rebels mark the first anniversary of the self-proclaimed republic

World Today

Separatist in Donetsk A pro-Russia separatist stands guard on a road near Donetsk, on August 18, 2014. Photo: AFP/Dimitar Dilkoff

Ukraine’s rebel Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) marked the first anniversary of its independence on Monday with a mass demonstration through the city centre.

Local bikers carrying the self-proclaimed republic’s black, red and blue flags rode at the head of the column, followed by people carrying balloons in colours of DNR flag, white paper pigeons and signs reading “DNR”.

The republic’s leader Alexander Zakharchenko smiled and waved at passing demonstrators from a podium build on the side of the street.

Read more on the war in Donetsk here.

“Today is the first anniversary (of creation) of the Donetsk People’s Republic. We are proud of it. We are overwhelmed. We feel so proud for our Donbass. I simply cannot describe it in words,” said DNR resident and demonstration participant Galina.

“It is life, it is freedom, it is our future, it is future of our youth, our children, our grandchildren. It is future, it is good future,” said Lyudmila, a resident of the self-proclaimed republic.

Pro-Moscow rebels held a referendum on self-rule for eastern Ukraine a year ago, with some saying that meant independence and others eventual union with Russia. Organisers then said nearly 90 percent had voted in favour.

At a news conference following the demonstration Zakharchenko sent a message to Ukrainians saying the Donetsk People’s Republic stuck to the choice made a year ago.

“I would like to say the following to the residents of Ukraine. Exactly one year ago we sent a clear message to the Ukrainian government saying how we want to develop, why we held the referendum and what it resulted in: we’ve told “yes” to our independence, “yes” to our children’s happy future, ‘yes” to being free country, “no” to usurpation of power, its illegal overthrow, “no” to Nazis.”

Zakharchenko is recovering from a wound sustained during fighting against Ukrainian army in the town of Debaltseve.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine has already claimed lives of more than more than 6,100 people.

Article by Reuters