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Ukrainians Mark Holiday With Nationalist March, Thanksgiving Prayer In Kyiv

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Ukrainian Nationalists Commemorate Controversial Paramilitary
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WATCH: Ukrainian Nationalists Commemorate Controversial Paramilitary

KYIV -- Thousands of supporters of Ukrainian nationalist groups have marched in downtown Kyiv to mark the 76th anniversary of the creation of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).

Earlier on October 14, thousands of people also gathered on a central square of the capital to take part in a thanksgiving prayer following a decision to grant independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

An estimated 15,000 people participated in the nationalist march from Shevchenko Park to European Square, which was held amid an increased police presence.

Many of the marchers waved red and black flags, a symbol of the nationalist movement, as well as blue and yellow Ukrainian national flags.

They lit flares and smoke bombs while shouting slogans such as "Glory to Ukraine!”

Some of the activists had their faces covered.

Since 2015, the anniversary has been marked as the Defender of Ukraine Day public holiday.

The UPA was founded in western Ukraine during the Nazi occupation of the country in World War II and fought against both the Nazis and the Soviet Red Army.

Tens of thousands of ethnic Poles were killed in what some historians say was ethnic cleansing by the UPA.

When the war ended, many UPA fighters continued to fight a guerrilla campaign against the Soviet authorities into the early 1950s.

In the western city of Lviv, hundreds of troops participated in a military parade to mark the holiday.

The parade also featured tanks and other armored vehicles, as well as artillery.

In Kyiv, thousands of people participated in a thanksgiving prayer on Sofiyska Square following an October 11 decision by the synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to allow Ukraine to establish an autocephalous -- or independent -- church and formally break away from Russia’s orbit.

The gathering was attended by President Petro Poroshenko, who said that “an independent country should have an independent church.”

Authorities said 6,000 police officers were dispatched to patrol the streets of Kyiv and ensure order during the day.

With reporting by AFP and dpa
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