Ukrainian separatists in Donetsk on Friday celebrated the fourth anniversary of the city’s self-proclaimed independence from Ukraine with a parade.
Local residents who support the pro-Russian separatists came to the parade in the city center with black, red and blue rebel flags along with Russian flags.
Ukrainian forces have battled the pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk since 2014. A peace deal in 2015 has been little honored by either side. Ukraine accuses Russia of providing military support for separatists, a charge the Kremlin denies.
Residents at Friday’s parade said they wanted the region to be closer to Russia.
“I went to vote for the independence, for joining Russia. We want to be on the right track. Our course is toward Russia only,” said Svetlana, a Donetsk resident.
Donetsk also held a parade Wednesday to commemorate the victory over Nazi Germany. That parade featured tanks and other heavy weapons despite a ban on that type of celebration by Ukraine’s government.
While large, Soviet-style military parades have been revived under President Vladimir Putin in Russia, they have been banned in Ukraine since the conflict with Russia-backed separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions broke out in 2014.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine erupted weeks after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and has left more than 10,000 dead.