KYIV -- Hundreds of Ukrainians have joined together to form a live chain across the Dnieper River in Kyiv to mark the 1919 Unification Act of the Ukrainian People's Republic and the short-lived West Ukrainian People's Republic.
In a statement to mark the Day of Unity on January 22, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that in the modern world the feeling of a nation as a whole arises not only through common traditions, culture and religion, but also because of the values that are "acceptable to every corner of Ukraine."
"To be strong, one must become one. To become one, one must be strong. We need to keep that in mind," Zelenskiy's statement said.
Zelenskiy's statement comes amid efforts to reinvigorate the moribund peace process with Russia, which has created uncertainty and division within Ukraine.
The Kremlin's relationship with Ukraine has been hostile ever since protests in Kyiv led to the overthrow of the nation’s pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula shortly thereafter and backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, sparking a war in the Donbas region that has resulted in more than 13,000 deaths.
"On Ukrainian Unity Day, we call on Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, including Crimea and the Donbas, extending to its territorial waters," the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv wrote in a post on Twitter.
Zelenskiy, Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk, and Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk took part in a ceremony marking the day by laying flowers at the monuments of prominent Ukrainian writer and thinker Taras Shevchenko and historian and politician Mykhaylo Hrushevskiy.
The Day of Unity has been marked as a national holiday in Ukraine since 1999, but the first "life chain of unity" occurred on January 21, 1990, when the country was still part of the former Soviet Union.
The outpouring of nationalism saw hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians stand in a chain that was so long it connected the capital with several other nearby cities.
Kyiv Marks Ukraine's Day Of Unity With Human Chain Across The Dnieper River