‘Like denying the Holocaust’: Ukraine makes post-WWII nationalist fighters as privileged as war vets
Ukraine’s current nation-building effort puts it at odds with other nations because Kiev seeks to glorify different forces that wanted an independent Ukrainian state, regardless of what crimes they may have committed. The most awkward legacy comes with the radical Ukrainian nationalists, who were active in the first half of 20th century.
They started by targeting Polish officials in what is now western Ukraine with a campaign of terrorism. Later they sided with Nazi Germany during World War II hoping that Adolf Hitler would make Ukraine independent, but then turned against him after their expectations proved wrong.
Both in collaboration with the Nazis and as an independent force the nationalists conducted mass killings of Poles and Jews. After the war they found support from the CIA and waged a guerrilla war against the Soviet authorities until they were quashed in the mid-1950s.
This week the Ukrainian parliament passed a law, which extends the honorable status of a war veteran, to additional members of OUN-UPA – the nationalist organization and its military wing. Previously only those who fought against the Nazis were granted the privilege on par with soldiers and officers of the Red Army. But under the new legislation the anti-Soviet guerillas will be considered war veterans too.
“This law is denial of the Holocaust, a falsification of history, a gesture of contempt to their country, its people and European [values],” Eduard Dolinsky, a prominent Ukrainian Jewish activist said, lashing out at the 236 MPs, who voted for the bill.
Dolinsky, the firebrand critic of Ukraine’s glorification of OUN-UPA, leads the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, a Kiev-based Jewish advocacy group with international recognition. He often blasts the latest move by Ukrainian authorities to elevate the mass murderers on his Facebook page.
With laws like this modern Ukraine takes upon itself responsibility for the war crimes, which those units had committed,” he pointed out. “Those crimes have no statute of limitations, so the victims of those crimes and their heirs may sue Ukraine in international courts for damage.
Earlier Ukrainian MPs filed a motion to honor Stepan Bandera, the leader of OUN, by bestowing an order of Hero of Ukraine on him. The nationalist leader briefly was given the highest Ukrainian award by President Viktor Yushchenko, but the decision was overturned by a court.