Zelensky asks Defenders Day rally goers not to feed Russian propaganda
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned participants of the rally scheduled for Defenders Day, Oct 14, against making any moves to allow Russian propaganda using them to portray the country in a negative light.
In a Facebook post Oct 13, Zelensky urged rally goers not to be provoked "by those who want to create an eloquent picture for Russian television," RFE/RL reports.
The message alluded to Russian TV programs often claiming Ukraine is a country run by rabid nationalists or even "fascists".
War veterans, volunteers of the Donbas war, joined by some nationalist groups, usually assemble in large numbers to mark one of the nation's newest national holidays that was established after Russia took over Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and sparked a war in the easternmost regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
"There will be many veterans and volunteers in the capital on October 14. I understand your concerns over the developments on the Donbas settlement. You justly don't want what you fought for to be in vain," Zelensky wrote. "I promise you as President of Ukraine and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces that I will never allow this."
Police have said that about 300 rallies are scheduled throughout the country.
In the same Facebook post, Zelensky urged law enforcement to maintain order during holiday events.
October 14 is also an important religious holiday for millions of Ukrainians, the majority of whom are Orthodox Christian, and it is a date with two historically symbolic meanings.
Called Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the religious holiday has historic undertones since many Ukrainian Cossacks considered her a protector and intercessor of their main fort, the Sich.
Coinciding with the date is the symbolic founding day of the World War 2-era Ukrainian Insurgent Army.
Former President Petro Poroshenko created the Defender Day holiday in October 2014, at the same time cancelling the previous Soviet-era Defender of the Fatherland Day that had been commemorated Feb 23.