Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko struck a defiant tone towards Russia on Wednesday, accusing his country's larger neighbour of vain attempts at invasion as Ukraine celebrated 25 years of independence.

"I now invite you to observe a minute of silence in tribute to the memory of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians who died in the war unleashed by the Russian aggressor," he said at a gathering in Kiev, according to a transcript of the speech.

Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union until 1991 and, as such, under Moscow's de facto control. Efforts in recent years to tilt Ukraine towards the West have prompted divisions in the country, which Ukraine and most of the West have blamed on Russia.

Tuesday's celebration, which featured a major military parade in Kiev, came amid escalating tensions with Russia as Moscow boosts its military presence near the countries' shared border.

Poroshenko laid flowers at a war memorial in Kiev, saying "we bow our heads before this monument to heroes who have given their lives for Ukraine's peaceful future."

Ukraine has fought against pro-Russian separatists backed by Moscow since early 2014, when Kiev ousted its pro-Russian president amid mass protests calling for closer ties with the West.

"Looking back over more than two years of war, it is possible to confidently say that the enemy has not been able to bring Ukraine to its knees," Poroshenko said in the speech.

"For this," he continued, "2,504 of our soldiers have died."

Poroshenko, joined by his family, also prayed for Ukraine's future in Kiev's Orthodox Christian Cathedral of Saint Sophia, according to a statement on his website.

On August 24, 1991, Ukraine's parliament adopted its Declaration of Independence, establishing the republic as separate from the disintegrating Soviet Union.

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