Donetsk: Pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine paraded dozens of captured soldiers before a jeering crowd in mockery of Independence Day celebrations in the capital.
Ukraine`s pro-Western government had sought to boost morale with an upbeat military parade to mark the country`s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Speaking yesterday to a crowd of thousands in the iconic Independence Square, known locally as the Maidan, President Petro Poroshenko decried Russian "aggression" and said he was "convinced that the battle for Ukraine, for independence, will be our success".
But it was a markedly different scene in the eastern rebel stronghold of Donetsk, where around 40 or 50 captured government soldiers were paraded through the city`s central Lenin Square as onlookers hurled garbage and empty bottles at them.
"You are killing children!" screamed some in the crowd at the prisoners, who walked with heads bowed and their hands behind their backs before being placed on two buses and taken to an unknown destination.
The grim scene appeared designed to recall the famous moment in 1944 when thousands of captured Nazi soldiers were paraded through Moscow on Stalin`s orders.
Human Rights Watch deputy director Rachel Denber said on Twitter that the event amounted to "humiliating and degrading treatment" of prisoners and was therefore in breach of the Geneva Convention.
Ukraine and the West blame Russia for supporting the separatist insurgents still clinging on to territory after four months of fighting in the restive east.
"War has come to us from over the horizon where it was never expected," Poroshenko told the crowd in the Maidan, many of whom sported the blue and yellow national colours and traditional dress as they celebrated the first military parade in five years.
He said some of the equipment rolling through the Maidan, which included tanks and Grad missile systems -- controversial for the indiscriminate damage they have caused in the east -- would be sent from the display straight back to the front lines, where over 700 soldiers have died since April.
"In the 21st century, in the centre of Europe, there is a flagrant attempt to breach the border of a sovereign state without declaring war," he said.