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Ukraine marks first 'Day of Remembrance and Victory over Nazism' in WWII since official date change in 2023

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk May 8, 2024 10:20 AM 2 min read
The Motherland Monument above a Soviet-era World War II memorial in Kyiv, Ukraine on Aug. 24, 2023. (Kirill Chubotin / Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
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Ukraine marked the "Day of Remembrance and Victory over Nazism in the Second World War" on May 8, the first time since the date of the holiday was officially changed in 2023.

Most European nations celebrate Victory in Europe Day on May 8 to mark the anniversary of Germany's unconditional surrender. Russia and some former Soviet countries celebrate Victory Day on May 9, using the term Great Patriotic War.

Ukraine also celebrated Victory Day on May 9 until 2015, when then-president Petro Poroshenko changed its name to the Day of Victory over Nazism in World War II. He designated May 8 as the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation. May 8 was a working day, and May 9 remained a public holiday.

President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a law in 2023 officially changing the date of Ukraine's World War II commemoration to May 8, aligning it with most of Europe and indicating a full break from the Soviet-era holiday.

In Russia, Victory Day is a highly militarized holiday that seeks to demonstrate Russian military power. Against the backdrop of Russia's full-scale war in Ukraine, the historical memory of World War II has also been weaponized by Russia as part of its attempt to frame the invasion of Ukraine as a continuation of Russia's struggle against the West.

Zelensky also drew parallels to World War II in comments marking the first celebration of the holiday.

"Russia has brought pages from World War II textbooks back into the global media spotlight, demonstrating that Nazism has resurfaced with each new crime," he wrote on Telegram.

"And, as in 1945, only a united free world—united in the Anti-(Russian President Vladimir) Putin Coalition—can stop the Moscow Nazis through action rather than words."

In reference to the common refrain about the commitment to prevent a repetition of the Holocaust and other crimes committed by Nazi Germany, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry wrote that "'never again' has become 'again' since Russia unleashed the war against Ukraine."

Around 6 to 7 million Ukrainians were killed during World War II, including about 1.5 million Ukrainian Jews. As a percentage of the population, Ukraine suffered greater losses in the war than Russia.

Media: Russia sets up display of captured Western military hardware in Moscow
According to BBC, more than 30 Western-made armored vehicles were on display, including a U.S. Abrams tank.
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