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The Daily Vertical: Why Ukrainian Independence Matters (Transcript)

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

Twenty-six years ago today Ukraine won its de jure independence. Today it is fighting to achieve its de facto independence.

And on this day, it's worth reflecting on why Ukrainian independence matters.

It matters because it shatters a myth. It shatters the myth that Ukraine is somehow just some appendage of Russia and is destined to be ruled from Moscow.

It corrects the historical record.

It reminds us that while Ukraine does share much history with Russia, it also shares much history with Poland, with Lithuania, Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia as well.

It reminds us that Ukraine is European and as the Yale University historian Timothy Snyder has said, European history doesn't make much sense if it doesn't include Ukraine.

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Ukrainian independence matters because without it the territory of the former Soviet Union cannot become truly post-Soviet.

Because any Russian imperial project begins with -- and must include -- Ukraine.

That old cliche that "without Ukraine, Russia is a country; and with Ukraine, Russia is an empire," may be cliche, but it also has the virtue of being true.

And Ukrainian independence matters because it sets an example.

It goes without saying that if Ukraine can succeed in establishing a stable and prosperous European democracy, it would be the best thing that ever happened to Ukrainians

But it would be also the best thing that ever happened to Russians as well, because it would inspire, motivate, and embolden those Russians who desire the same for their country.

On August 24, 1991 Ukraine declared its formal independence. Today it is finally realizing it -- and the fallout will be profound.

Happy Independence Day, Ukraine.

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