KYIV — Ukrainians have marked the seventh anniversary of the shooting deaths of dozens of participants in the Euromaidan anti-government protests that toppled the country’s Russia-friendly president, Viktor Yanukovych, in 2014.
The commemorations honored those who were killed in the capital, Kyiv, during clashes with Yanukovych’s security forces on February 18-20, 2014.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his wife, Olena, laid flowers at the so-called Monument of the Heavenly Hundred in Kyiv’s Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti) on February 20.
“Eternal memory to all those who died for the future of Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said at the ceremony.
Gatherings were held across Ukraine on February 20 to commemorate those killed during the Euromaidan protests.
Some parts of Ukraine began honoring the slain demonstrators two days earlier, on the day when the shootings started.
The Euromaidan movement began in November 2013 when protesters gathered on the central square in Kyiv to protest Yanukovych’s decision not to sign a crucial trade accord with the European Union. Instead, he sought closer economic ties with Russia.
Ukrainian prosecutors say 104 people were killed and 2,500 injured as a result of violent crackdowns by authorities against protesters.
Shunning a deal backed by the West and Russia to end the standoff, Yanukovych abandoned power and fled Kyiv on February 21, 2014.
The former president, who was secretly flown to Russia and remains there, denies that he ordered police to fire on protesters, saying that the violence was the result of a “planned operation” to overthrow his government.
In March 2014, shortly after Yanukovych’s downfall, Russian military forces seized control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula — a precursor to the Kremlin’s illegal annexation of the territory through a hastily organized and widely discredited referendum.
Russia also has supported pro-Russia separatists who are fighting Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine.
More than 13,200 people have been killed in that conflict since April 2014.