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Rebels Parade POWs As Kyiv Marks Independence Day

  • RFE/RL

Correspondents say people watching the August 24 incident in Donetsk shouted "Fascists!" and other abuse at the prisoners.

Correspondents say people watching the August 24 incident in Donetsk shouted "Fascists!" and other abuse at the prisoners.

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have paraded dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war through the center of Donetsk, mocking celebrations in Kyiv marking Ukraine's 23 years of independence from the former Soviet Union.

Correspondents say people watching the August 24 incident in Donetsk shouted "Fascists!" – throwing garbage and empty bottles at the prisoners, who walked with their heads bowed.

Most of the prisoners were unshaven and disheveled. They were dressed either in combat fatigues or civilian clothes.

Rachel Denber, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter that the event amounted to "humiliating and degrading treatment" of prisoners and violated the Geneva Convention.

Meanwhile, in Kyiv, Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko presided over a military parade from Independence Square -- known locally as the "Maidan" -- with columns of soldiers, armored vehicles, and trucks towing missile systems.

Crowds of Ukrainians, many sporting the national color of blue and yellow, sang the country's national anthem as the flag was raised.

Speaking to a crowd of thousands in the square, Poroshenko announced that Ukraine will spend some $3 billion on military equipment for its army between 2015 and 2017.

Poroshenko said Ukraine would be under constant military threat for the foreseeable future.

Ukraine's independence anniversary comes as fighting continues in the country's east, where pro-Russian separatists still hold Donetsk and the city of Luhansk.

In the early hours of August 24, a shell hit a hospital in central Donetsk, damaging a morgue and two other hospital buildings.

Medical officials said the staff and patients were sent to a basement shelter. No one was hurt.

Kyiv accuses Moscow of sending in weapons and personnel through parts of the border controlled by the separatists. Russia denies the claim.

Russia unilaterally sent hundreds of aid trucks into Ukraine through a rebel-held border point on August 22, saying it had lost patience with what it described as delaying tactics by Kyiv.

Ukraine described the move as an invasion, saying the Russians did not allow the convoy to be properly inspected by Ukrainian border guards to ensure that Moscow wasn't using a humanitarian aid convoy as a ruse to smuggle weapons and ammunition to the separatists.

Russia claimed the trucks carried only food, water, electric power generators, and sleeping bags to Luhansk.

Paul Picard, head of an international monitoring team from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said all of the vehicles had returned to Russia before sundown on August 23.

Unrest in eastern Ukraine began in mid-April, one month after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

According to the United Nations, more than 2,000 people have been killed and about 340,000 forced to flee their homes as a result of the conflict.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, and Interfax