Ukrainians cheered on the first day of visa-free access to the European Union as thousands crossed the border on Sunday.
The move is symbolic for Kiev, where a pro-EU revolt in 2014 toppled the previous Russia-backed government and was followed by Moscow's annexation of the Crimea peninsula sparking a protracted ongoing conflict with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
"The visa-free regime for Ukraine has started! Glory to Europe! Glory to Ukraine!" Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko tweeted early on Sunday.
Only those with biometric passports can take advantage of the visa-free travel for the time being, for stays of up to 90 days every six months that don't include work.
“Waited so long”
Later Sunday, Poroshenko met with Slovak counterpart Andrej Kiska on the Slovak-Ukrainian border, unlocking a mock "door to the EU" painted like a Ukrainian passport.
"We have waited so long for this," he said.
"I am sure that this day, June 11, will go down in the history of Ukraine as a final exit of our country from the Russian empire and its return to the family of European nations."
Speaking on the occasion, Kiska told the crowd: "Welcome to Europe…I want to call on you to continue carrying out reforms."
The EU approved the visa-free travel last month after long delays and Kiev's embattled reforms, fulfilling a key promise to cement ties with Kiev following the broad trade and political association agreement sealed in 2014.
"I'm going abroad for the first time in a decade, and it feels so good," said Ukrainian Ulyana Golosyak who crossed the border to Poland from western Ukraine.