President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Tuesday linked the historic pro-democracy protests in Kiev a decade ago to the invasion of Ukraine, describing the demonstrations on Maidan Square as the “first victory” in the war with Russia.
The pro-European protests, which left around 100 civilians dead in violent clashes with security forces in the capital, ultimately led to the ouster of Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych.
“The first victory in today’s war has been won. A victory over indifference. A victory for courage. A victory for the revolution of dignity,” President Zelenskiy said in a statement marking the 10th anniversary of the months-long protests.
The Maidan protests erupted in late 2013 when President Yanukovych abandoned the Association Agreement trade deal with the European Union, sparking separatist conflict in the country’s east.
President Zelenskiy praised his country’s progress towards joining the European Union since Russian forces launched a full-scale invasion in February 2022.
“Every year, one step at a time, we do our best to make our star shine in the star ring of the EU flag, which symbolizes the unity of the European peoples. Ukraine’s star,” he said.
Earlier this month, the EU executive recommended the start of formal accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova, and suggested that the EU’s 27 member states should grant candidate status to Georgia.
But the Kremlin described the Maidan protests as an attempt to overthrow the government with the support of foreign powers.
“It was a coup. It was an overthrow of the authorities with foreign support. Things need to be called by name,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday.
He said Russia’s goal is to continue its invasion of Ukraine after announcing last year the unilateral annexation of four Ukrainian territories over which Russia still does not have full military control.
Meanwhile, the United Nations said Tuesday that more than 10,000 people, including more than 560 children, have been killed and more than 18,500 injured since the Russian invasion.
The UN Human Rights Observatory in Ukraine said the real number was likely to be “significantly” higher, given the complexities in confirming deaths.