March 26 marks the Day of the National Guard of Ukraine. Today, both the military and civilians pay honor to the warriors of this service branch - the living and the dead alike.
President Petro Poroshenko attended the solemn ceremony on Monday morning, holding the moment of silence for the fallen fighters.
'We will always remember them. 182 servicemen posthumously received state decorations. Three of those - Major General Serhiy Kulchytsky, Lieutenant Bohdan Zavada and Private Yevhen Telnov are granted the highest decoration, the high title of the Hero of Ukraine', he said in his speech before the moment of silence. The head of the state added that almost 800 National Guard servicemen sustained injuries in action while fighting pro-Kremlin mercenaries in Donbas.
The National Guard is the Ukrainian national gendarmerie, part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. It was originally created as an agency under the direct control of the Ukrainian parliament in November 1991, following the country's independence. In 2000, it was disbanded and merged into the Internal Troops of Ukraine by the-then President Leonid Kuchma, as part of a "cost-saving" scheme. Following the early 2014 Ukrainian revolution, amidst the Russian intervention, the National Guard was reestablished and the Internal Troops were disbanded.
During the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine, the forces of the revived National Guard have fought against pro-Russian separatists. Azov and Donbas battalions are the largest volunteer units of the National Guard by far with a strength of 1,000 and 900 soldiers respectively plus an extensive civilian support network.