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Ukraine celebrates 18 years of independence

Ukraine marks 18 years of independence from Soviet rule, but relations with Russia remain difficult as a new report from Moscow alleges that Ukrainian soldiers fought alongside Georgians during last years brief war.

Ukrainian troops marching

Ukrainian troops on display for independence

With its most modern airplanes flying in formation overhead, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko deliverd a speech in Independence Square where he said that Ukraine needed strong institutions to ward of threats to its future prosperity.

"I choose a strong state, strength and dignity, to put in their place not only our local feudals but also foreign overlords who want to set down how we should live," said Yushchenko during his 25-minute address. He also added that, "I choose a full-fledged future for our country in the future of a united Europe."

He made no direct reference to Russia, but Ukraine's relationship with its northern neighbor has been contentious.

Earlier this month, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused Yushchenko of fostering anti-Russian policies and said that he had given up on any improvement in relations between the two countries.

President Yushchenko denied the allegations and invited Medvedev to visit Ukraine for talks.

Russian accusations

gauge at zero show no gas moving through pipeline

Natural gas is a point of tension between Ukraine and Russia

In Moscow, the Russian Prosecutor General's Investigative Committee alleged that Ukrainian troops fought along side Georgian troops when Russia and Georgia fought a brief war last year.

In a statement the Investigative Committee said that both nationalist irregulars and Ukrainian troops fought in the five-day war.

Konstantin Sadilove, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman denied that any Ukrainian troops had seen any action, but he could not exclude the fact that some Ukrainian irregulars may have been involved.

This comes on top of the diplomatic problems that have made relations between the two countries tense.

Among the issues that put a strain on the relationiship is Ukraine's bid to seek NATO member ship, problems with gas deliveries to the European Union that pass through Ukraine and Kiev's insistence that Russia close its Black Sea naval base on the Crimean Peninsula by 2017.

Editor: Trinity Hartman

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