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2 Jan, 2016 05:12

Ukrainian nationalists celebrate birthday of Nazi collaborator Bandera with torch-lit marches

Ukrainian nationalists celebrate birthday of Nazi collaborator Bandera with torch-lit marches

Around 3,000 Ukrainian nationalists came out into the streets of Kiev carrying torches to celebrate the 107th anniversary of the birth of controversial WWII figure and nationalist leader Stepan Bandera, who collaborated with Nazi Germany.

Thousands of people participating in the march were Right Sector and far-right Svoboda party supporters, RIA Novosti reported. 

In Ruptly’s video footage from Kiev, the nationalists are seen lighting torches and proceeding as a massive wave down the streets in the city’s core. There is also a sea of Svoboda flags and banners reading: “Stepan Bandera is our hero.”

There was heavy police presence at the march, according to local Kiev Segodnya website.

Around 1,200 activists also came out in Ukraine’s southwestern city of Odessa to take part in a similar torch-lit procession. The crowd chanted “Glory to Ukraine,” “Glory to Stepan Bandera,” among other slogans.

Other marches and events to mark Bandera’s birthday were held in Dnepropetrovsk, Lvov, Ivano-Frankovsk, and Kherson.

READ MORE: Whitewashing Ukraine’s Nazi collaborators ‘morally repulsive’ – Russia’s UN envoy 

Bandera is regarded as a highly controversial figure in Ukrainian society. He was leader of the militant arm of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) during World War II and collaborated with the Nazi German forces at the beginning of the war, but was later arrested by the Germans and spent years in a concentration camp.

In 1941, Bandera urged the Ukrainian people to aid the Nazis in destroying Moscow and the Bolsheviks. He later became the leader of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) that was created in 1942 by a faction of the OUN. The UPA fought mostly against the Armia Krajowa of Poland and the Red Army in Western Ukraine.

READ MORE: Bandera: Ukraine’s national hero or traitor? 

In 2010, President Viktor Yushchenko honored Bandera with the title of “Hero of Ukraine,” but in the same year, the Donetsk administrative court canceled the decision, calling it unlawful.

Russia has repeatedly criticized Ukraine’s attempts to whitewash the backgrounds of the Ukrainian nationalists who openly cooperated with the Nazis.

“It is deeply disturbing that the followers of [Stepan] Bandera are openly marching these days in Ukraine, displaying his portraits and fascist insignia, and are wielding considerable political power in Kiev,” Vitaly Churkin said at the UN in 2014.