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15 Oct, 2019 00:49

‘No to capitulation! Death to our enemies!’ Nationalists march in Kiev against roadmap to peace in Ukraine

‘No to capitulation! Death to our enemies!’ Nationalists march in Kiev against roadmap to peace in Ukraine

Ukrainian nationalists marched in Kiev to mark the anniversary of a Nazi-collaborating WWII militia. Many used the occasion to protest the so-called Steinmeier Formula – arguably Ukraine's best chance for peace.

Ukraine's capital saw multiple marches attended by all kinds of nationalists on Monday, when the nation commemorated the foundation of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) – a guerilla group that fought against the Red Army during World War II in collaboration with the Nazis. This time, though, it was not just about glorification of Ukraine's dubious past, as far-right groups projected their war fantasies onto the nation's troubled present.

The largest rally, under the slogan "Defend the Ukrainian land!" was organized by the All-Ukrainian Union 'Svoboda' (Freedom) – an ultranationalist party formerly known as the Social-National Party of Ukraine. Members of far-right groups such as the Right Sector and the Organization of the Ukrainian Nationalists also joined the rally. According to the organizers, there were some 10,000 people in attendance.

The protesters marched all the way from Maidan Square to the presidential office, chanting slogans against President Volodymir Zelensky, who recently agreed to the so-called 'Steinmeier Formula' – a roadmap for Ukraine's breakaway eastern regions to receive autonomy – in a bid to bring the stalled peace process out of a deadlock. The nationalists branded the Ukrainian leader a "traitor" while denouncing the peace plan as a threat to Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty.

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Another far-right party, the National Corps, organized its own march under the slogan "No to capitulation!" and also directed against the peace roadmap. Thousands of marchers were chanting aggressive slogans, some of which clearly resembled those of the Nazi Germany like "Ukraine above all things!" Other chants included "Glory to the Nation!" and "Death to our enemies!" Some of the protesters were also carrying burning flares.

Several hundred more people, chanting slogans "Glory to Ukraine!" and "Glory to the heroes!" – tag lines that have become a signature line for the local nationalists – marched to the Italian embassy. They demanded the release of Vitaly Markiv, a Ukrainian-born fighter in one of the notorious volunteer battalions. The man was sentenced to 24 years in prison by an Italian court in July, over his involvement in the killings of Italian photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli and Russian human rights activist Andrei Mironov in May 2014.

Separately, another group of nationalists staged its own march in the center of Kiev to commemorate the UPA and its founder Stepan Bandera – a man who has since been elevated to the status of a hero among the nationalists and officially recognized as such under former president Petro Poroshenko earlier this year.

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No major incidents occurred during the marches, as some 1,500 officers were providing security in the center of the Ukrainian capital. On the sidelines of the protests, however, unidentified "masked men" brought an effigy of the Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky to a Kiev synagogue.

One of the country's wealthiest businessmen, Kolomoisky also happens to be the president of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine and was once described as the man behind Zelensky's rise to power. A photo published in Facebook by the head of the Ukrainian Jewish committee, Eduard Dolinsky, shows an effigy with a photo of Kolomoisky dipped in red dye thrown at the synagogue entrance. No one has been detained over the incident yet, according to local media.

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