Day of Volunteer Fighters in Ukraine Date in the current year: March 14, 2024

Day of Volunteer Fighters in Ukraine The Day of Volunteer Fighters (Volunteer Fighter Day) is a Ukrainian holiday celebrated annually on March 14. It was officially established by the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) in January 2017.

Ukrainian volunteer battalions are military, police and paramilitary units that were created in 2014 in response to Russian military aggression in order to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.

The chain of events that led to their formation kicked off in November 2013, when there was a drastic increase in anti-government sentiment among pro-European Ukrainians due to President Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign an association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. It sparked a massive protest rally in downtown Kyiv that was nicknamed Euromaidan.

When the police raided the tent camp at Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), the protest developed into a full-fledged revolution that would be christened the Revolution of Dignity. To protect the protesters from police brutality, volunteer self-defense detachments were formed, and the leaders of opposition parties announced the creation of the Headquarters of National Resistance.

The Euromaidan protests escalated on February 18–20, 2014, resulting in Yanukovych’s removal from office and the establishment of a pro-European government. However, Russia took advantage of political turmoil in Ukraine, annexing Crimea and invading the Donbas region, which resulted in the creation of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, unrecognized puppet states controlled by Russia.

Following the annexation of Crimea and a series of pro-Russian rallies in southeastern Ukraine, the leadership of Maidan Self-Defense decided to form a volunteer battalion to protect the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine. The First Volunteer Battalion of the National Guard of Ukraine comprised over 500 fighters of Maidan Self-Defense.

On March 14, 2014, volunteer fighters arrived at a training facility in Novi Petrivtsi near Kyiv for military training. A month later, hundreds of Ukrainian patriots serving in volunteer battalions began to support the Ukrainian army in the war in Donbas; their numbers have been growing ever since.

There are four types of volunteer units in Ukraine: territorial defense battalions under the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, volunteer units in the National Guard of Ukraine, volunteer units in the patrol police, and independent volunteer units such as the Volunteer Ukrainian Corps, the Ukrainian Volunteer Army, the Georgia National Legion, the Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion, and the Sarmat Unit.

The Day of Volunteer Fighters was inaugurated in 2017 to highlight the contribution of volunteer fighters to the formation and functioning of the combat-ready National Guard, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and the Security Service of Ukraine. The celebration of the holiday was especially poignant in 2022, when it was observed during the Russian invasion in Ukraine, because volunteer fighters greatly contributed to Ukrainian resistance in the devastating war.

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