efe-epaKiev

Ukraine's president said his nation was not only defending itself from Russian aggression but also Europe as a whole as he gave a speech during a military parade to mark the 27th anniversary of Ukrainian independence Friday.

Petro Poroshenko said the Ukrainian army was one of the best in the world and highlighted its role reinforcing Nato's eastern frontier with Russia, a region that for the last four years has been a bloody theater of conflict between pro-Moscow insurgents and Ukraine's armed forces.

The former business magnate also used the occasion to hammer home his country's aspirations to join the European Union and the North Atlantic Alliance, both of which have condemned Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea in the aftermath of the Ukrainian revolution and the flight of Russophile former president Viktor Yanukovych.

Poroshenko also pressed for a schism between the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches as another measure to stem Russia's influence in its smaller western neighbor.

The United States National Security Advisor John Bolton was in attendance and met with the Ukrainian president.

Around 4,500 soldiers and 250 military vehicles took part in the parade.

Ukraine declared independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.