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Parliament to be lit in Ukrainian colours for Independence Day as war hits 6 months

Click to play video: 'Ukraine marks poignant Independence Day 6 months after Russia’s war began'
Ukraine marks poignant Independence Day 6 months after Russia’s war began
WATCH: Ukrainians are celebrating a solemn 31st Independence Day, exactly six months since Russia's invasion began. Jeff Semple looks at the scaled-down celebrations, the new deadly attack on a train station, and the fears international attention is waning – Aug 24, 2022

Parliament is to be lit in blue and yellow Wednesday evening to mark Ukrainian Independence Day as the prime minister, federal ministers, MPs and premiers paid tribute to Ukraine’s courage in the face of Russian aggression.

As some of the 1.4 million Ukrainian Canadians celebrated the country’s 31 years as an independent nation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau led the tributes to its “bravery,” saying the “bonds uniting our peoples are unbreakable.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reported that, as the country marked Independence Day, more than 15 people were killed in a Russian missile strike on a Ukrainian train station.

Read more: Ukraine aid donations stalling as war hits 6-month mark: Canadian charities

Canada was the first Western country to recognize Ukraine’s independence in 1991. The first Ukrainian bank notes after independence were printed in Canada and Canadian legal experts helped Ukraine draft its constitution.

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Canada has the second largest Ukrainian diaspora in the world, with large Ukrainian communities throughout the country, including in Saskatchewan.

Scott Moe, the province’s premier, said on Wednesday: “As Ukrainians fight to defend their independence today, know that Saskatchewan stands with you.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who is set to attend an Independence Day event in Toronto with Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada, said “to all Ukrainians across the globe and here in Ontario, we will continue to stand with you and offer our unwavering support in your fight for freedom and peace.”

Click to play video: 'Russia launches missiles at railroad station in central Ukraine, Zelenskyy tells UNSC'
Russia launches missiles at railroad station in central Ukraine, Zelenskyy tells UNSC

Ukraine’s parliament declared independence from the crumbling Soviet Union on Aug. 24, 1991, and the anniversary is celebrated every year in Ukraine.

This year, however, Ukraine is also marking six months of war with Russia and the event in Toronto will include a charity auction to raise money for ambulances and evacuation vehicles in Ukraine.

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Among the items set to be auctioned is a piece of a Russian missile that destroyed a training base near the Polish border.

Weeks before the missile struck, killing 43 people, Canadian personnel had been training Ukrainian soldiers at the base.

Read more: War exhibition in Toronto to mark Ukraine’s Independence Day

Ambassador Yulia Kovaliv will launch a multimedia exhibition at the event in Toronto on Wednesday featuring footage of Ukrainians defending their country on the front lines.

In an interview to mark Independence Day, the ambassador revealed she takes mobile-phone photos of blue and yellow signs supporting Ukraine in Canada, as well as flags flying in cities throughout the country, and sends them back to friends in Ukraine on the front lines to illustrate Canadian support.

“It is really amazing how we all join together to resist aggression and stand for what is right,” she said, adding that Ukraine is “very grateful” for Canada’s financial support, which has exceeded $1.87 billion.

Melanie Joly, minister of foreign affairs, Harjit Sajjan, minister of international development and Anita Anand, minister of national defence, said in a statement that the last six months have been “profoundly difficult for people in Ukraine and Ukrainian communities abroad.”

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Click to play video: 'UNSC concerned for any prisoners of war tried in ‘so-called international tribunal’ by Russia'
UNSC concerned for any prisoners of war tried in ‘so-called international tribunal’ by Russia

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress said that “since the beginning of Russia’s genocidal war against Ukraine, the Ukrainian Canadian community has stood with its brothers and sisters in Ukraine.”

“Throughout these incredibly difficult last months, Ukrainian Canadians have financially supported Ukrainian civilians, represented Ukrainian interests in Canada, and have made incredible efforts to welcome and support refugees coming to Canada,” it said in a statement.

At a park in Saskatoon, Ukrainian Canadians held a rally on Wednesday to mark Ukraine’s 31 years of Independence from Russian control.

Tetyana Lemon, a teacher at Bishop Filevich Ukrainian bilingual school in Saskatoon, said Independence Day is a “reminder to the world of the resilience of Ukrainians, their sacrifices and their desire to preserve freedom and peace.”

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