Ukrainian authorities slam TV channel for airing V-day concert, condemning neo-Nazis

Ukrainian authorities slam TV channel for airing V-day concert, condemning neo-Nazis
A Victory Day concert, which is to be aired by a Ukrainian TV Channel, has been lambasted by the national media watchdog as “sowing discord” within society. The rise of neo-Nazism in the country was criticized during the event.

The concert, expected to just feature popular Ukrainian singers singing Soviet songs of the World War Two era, caused the ire of the Ukrainian National Council for the TV and radio broadcast, as its anchors slammed the rise of neo-Nazism.

The watchdog said the event, to be aired on May 9 on Ukranian Inter TV channel, is nothing but “yet another manipulation and dancing on the wounds of society,” in a statement commenting on the issue. It further added that such concerts do not belong to “the freedom of speech,” as they do not represent a certain “point of view,” but are “actions aimed at sowing discord within the society” and “another attempted attack in an information war.”

What sparked such a wave of indignation from the Ukrainian authorities, however, was the fact that the concert anchors slammed the rise of neo-Nazism in Ukraine.“Eight millions of Ukrainians died at the hands of the fascist invaders. This is our history, our genetic memory,” the anchors can be heard saying in a fragment of the concert that was published on social media.

“Today, we cannot allow the streets of our cities to be named after the fascist criminals and their portraits to be carried with impunity during the torch-lit marches in our capital, where every meter is covered with blood of our fellow countrymen,” they added.

In response, the Ukrainian media watchdog called on the broadcaster to avoid “the language of enmity and hatred,” as well as to “speak with tolerance and respect to all our fellow countrymen,” apparently referring to the Ukrainian neo-Nazis and various radical groups that have repeatedly staged torch-lit marches in Kiev to commemorate Nazi collaborators.

In the meantime, the Ukrainian radicals also issued threats against the Inter Channel over the Victory Day concert. “If the authorities are unable to stop this wave of the Russian chauvinism, then we, the National Corps, reserve the right to take any action to ensure the information security of our country,” the ultra-nationalist National Corps party said in a Facebook post commenting on the issue. Notably, the Ukrainian authorities did not react in any way to this threat.

The National Corps was formed on the basis of the Azov Battalion, and it is led by its former commander, Andrey Biletsky. He is the former head of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi Social-National party, also known as the ‘White Leader’ in nationalist circles. The Azov Battalion, which was actively used by Kiev in the military crackdown in eastern Ukraine, was also labeled as “openly neo-Nazi” and “fascist” by the US lawmakers that banned any military aid to the unit.

The Inter TV Channel has been repeatedly subjected to attacks by the Ukrainian radicals. Back in September 2016, a group of ultranationalists stormed the channel’s office in Kiev and set it ablaze. Later, the radicals also blocked the office for several days, demanding that the broadcaster change its editorial policy. These incidents have not been investigated by Ukrainian authorities, according to the local media.

Ukrainian authorities have been turning a blind eye to the rise of neo-Nazi sentiments in Ukraine in the recent years. Most recently, Ukrainian nationalists announced their plans to march on Victory Day with the photos of their relatives who fought for the Nazis as part the SS 1st Galician Division during World War Two.

In late April, a group of far-right radicals set up an exhibition in the western Ukrainian city of Lvov to mark the 75th anniversary of the formation of the notorious Waffen SS division made up of predominantly Ukrainian volunteers. Thousands of people in the country also take part in rallies and torch-lit marches, which are regularly organized by far-right groups to commemorate Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera.

Bandera was a prominent leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (UPA), which fought against Poland and the Soviet Union for an independent national state for Ukrainians. The organization aligned itself with the Nazis during the World War Two. Bandera acted as a German intelligence agent and helped recruit Ukrainian nationalists for Nazi auxiliary units.

Despite these facts, Bandera is honored as a hero in Ukraine. Ukrainian authorities have been criticized by Russia, Poland and other countries for their attempts to glorify nationalists who collaborated with the Nazis during World War Two.