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Ukraine Marks 20 Years Of Independence

The jailing of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko could overshadow Ukraine's independence celebrations.
Ukraine today marks 20 years of independence.

President Viktor Yanukovych will take part in ceremonies in Kyiv.

Amid a budgetary squeeze, a planned military parade in the Ukrainian capital was scrapped to save $20 million.

Official celebrations could be overshadowed by planned protests by supporters of arrested opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

A court refused to release Tymoshenko on the eve of the anniversary.

The former 'Orange Revolution' leader and presidential contender was jailed on Aug. 5 for 'disruptive behavior' at her corruption trial in Kyiv.

The jailing was sharply criticized by the United States and European Union, which both fear the trial is politically motivated to silence the country's opposition.

In a sign of the tensions, Ukraine's security service said Aug. 22 it had arrested three people on suspicion of plotting a nail bomb attack at the ceremonies.

Speaking ahead of today's celebrations, Yanukovych highlighted economic reforms and moves to deepen ties with the EU. Yanukovych also noted ties with Russia, a key energy supplier, remained a "strategic priority".

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulated Ukraine on the anniversary saying, "twenty years ago, Ukraine emerged from the shadow of the Soviet Union and charted a new path toward democracy and freedom."

"Supporting and sustaining democracy is never easy. It takes hard work and there are roadblocks along the way, but the people of Ukraine have made it clear that they are yearning for greater democratic systems and freedoms," Clinton said in a statement.

The anniversary comes with many Ukrainians not in a celebratory mood if opinion polls are to be believed.

According to a survey by Kyiv's Razumkov center, 61.7 percent of Ukrainians believe the situation in the country has deteriorated since 1991 and only 23.2 percent believe their families are better off.

compiled from agency reports