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Ukraine Marks Anniversary Of Worst Maidan Bloodshed


A person lays flowers during a commemoration ceremony at the monument to the so-called "Nebesna Sotnya" (Heavenly Hundred), the people killed during the mass pro-EU protests in 2014 in central Kyiv on February 20.

With paper angels, flowers, and fond words for the dead, Ukraine has marked the anniversary of a bloody crackdown on the Euromaidan protests that drove a Moscow-friendly president from power four years ago.

The annual commemorations honor protesters who were killed in clashes with security forces in Kyiv on February 20, 2014 -- a group of victims many Ukrainians call the Heavenly Hundred.

On Twitter, President Petro Poroshenko praised those killed as "true angels who protected Ukraine."

"They gave the most precious thing they had -- their lives -- for a better destiny for all of us, and forever became the guides for future generations of free Ukrainians," Poroshenko wrote.

Some 1,000 paper angels were affixed to trees lining Kyiv's Institutska Street, where some of the protesters were killed.

Poroshenko and his wife, Maryna, were among many who laid flowers at a memorial in Kyiv's Independence Square -- Maidan Nezalezhnosti -- known as the Monument to the Heavenly Hundred.

The Euromaidan movement began in November 2013, when protesters gathered on the Maidan after Yanukovych announced he was postponing plans to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union and would seek closer economic ties with Russia.

Ukrainian prosecutors say 104 people were killed and 2,500 injured in the protests.

Shunning a deal backed by the West and Russia to end the standoff, Yanukovych abandoned power and fled Kyiv on February 21, 2014. The former president, who was flown to Russia in secret and remains there, denies ordering police to fire on protesters and claims the violence was a "planned operation" to overthrow his government.

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 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014 and displaced more than 1.6 million Ukrainians.

In a statement marking the February 20 events, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that "the United States will continue to stand by Ukraine as it faces ongoing Russian aggression."

Nauert added that although Ukraine had made progress in the last four years, "there is still more work needed to fulfill the promise of the Maidan and unlock Ukraine's potential."

"The United States calls on Ukraine's leaders to redouble their efforts to implement the deep, comprehensive, and timely reforms that are necessary to build the stable, democratic, prosperous, and free country Ukrainians deserve," Nauert said.

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan is to meet with Poroshenko, Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman, and Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin during a visit to Kyiv on February 21.

Sullivan "will stress the importance of Ukraine expeditiously implementing credible economic and anti-corruption reforms and will underscore U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity," the State Department said.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article said that Poroshenko was set to testify on February 20.
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