KYIV -- Ukraine has marked the Day of Dignity and Freedom, a holiday commemorating the beginning of the Euromaidan protests that started in November 2013 and pushed President Viktor Yanukovych from power three months later.
President Petro Poroshenko and his wife, Maryna, Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman, and parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy placed flowers and lit candles at a monument on Kyiv's Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) on November 21.
The monument honors the "Heavenly Hundred," a term for protesters who were killed in crackdowns by security forces during the protests.
A day before the ceremonies, a senior prosecutor said that murder investigations launched in an effort to hold people responsible for the deaths of protesters are on hold because the cases have been transferred to an investigative body that does not yet exist.
Serhiy Horbatyuk, chief of the directorate for in-absentia investigations at the Prosecutor-General's Office, said that cases involving corruption accusations against senior officials in Yanukovych's government were also effectively halted.
He said that, by law, the murder probes were to be transferred from the Prosecutor-General’s Office to the State Investigation Bureau, but that the bureau has not yet been created.
However, Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko said on November 20 that his office would continue to investigate the Euromaidan killings and that the National Anticorruption Bureau (NABU) would continue handling cases against Yanukovych and his allies.
The Euromaidan movement began when protesters gathered in central Kyiv after Yanukovych announced he was postponing plans to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union and would seek closer economic ties with Russia.
In February 2014, Yanukovych signed a deal with opponents that was meant to end the crisis but abandoned office shortly afterward and fled to Russia.
Moscow responded to his downfall by seizing control of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and fomenting separatism across much of the country -- one of the causes of a war that has killed more than 10,000 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.
Russia denies it has sent troops, weapons, and other support to help the separatists fight government forces, despite what Kyiv and NATO say is incontrovertible evidence.
Addressing paratroopers at a ceremony at Kyiv’s Mykhaylivska Square on November 21, Poroshenko thanked soldiers for their contribution in what he called the "fight against Russia's terrorist armed troops in Ukraine's east."
"We haven’t emerged from the zone of turbulence and we are still paying for two decades of strolling the sidewalks of the so-called 'Russian World,' but strategically we are on the right path,” Poroshenko said.
“Millions of participants in the Revolution of Dignity brought Ukraine to that path,” he added, referring to the massive Euromaidan protests. “They clearly identified the path on which our nation will enter the future.”
Poroshenko said that later on November 21 he would sign into law a bill to allocate state benefits to participants in the protests.
He announced that, from now on, November 21 will be marked also as Ukrainian Paratroopers Day.
During the ceremony, the paratroopers replaced their Soviet-style blue berets with dark red ones to symbolize what Poroshenko called "the blood shed by our paratroopers in battles against the Russian aggressors."
Ukraine has also changed the name of the paratroops force, seeking to break the association with Russia by dropping the initials VDV.
Kyiv police chief Andriy Kryshchenko said earlier that 2,000 additional security officers would be deployed in the city for the Euromaidan anniversary. Security was also beefed up in other Ukrainian cities.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said on November 21 that in the previous 24 hours, Russia-backed separatists had violated the long-standing cease-fire 17 times in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, killing one Ukrainian soldier.