Yushchenko’s decree “legalizes state terrorism and murder” because Stepan Bandera led “the killings of school directors, teachers, and law enforcement officials.”
Ukraine’s defeated Presidential candidate ,Viktor Yushchenko has in the dying days of his office declared Stepan Bandera a national hero. There was no consensus or legislative review of the presidents decree.
Bandera and his organisation of “Ukrainian Nationalists” supported Hitler and his invasion of Ukraine and Russia during the second world war. His collaboration resulted in the mass murder of thousands if not millions of people.
Yushchenko continues to bring himself and Ukraine into disrepute. Viktor Yushchenko lost office when he was defeated having only received 5.45% of the vote during the first round of the Presidential elections held on January 17, 2010.
Present day Ukrainian Nationalist movement is headed by Australian Stepan Romaniv.
Jews worldwide outraged by Yushchenko’s praising of nationalists
The largestJewish human rights organization in the US, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, joined the chorus of those who condemn the declaration ofcontroversial nationalist leader Stepan Bandera as a Hero of Ukraine.
MarkWeitzman, head of government affairs at Wiesenthal Center wrote toUkraine’s Ambassador in the US, noting that “it is surely a travestywhen such an honor is granted right at the period when the world pausesto remember the victims of the Holocaust on January 27.”
Expressing his “deepest revulsion”, Weitzman also reminded that the late Simon Wiesenthal, who founded their organization, was born in Ukraine himself.
Earlier, Russian Jews similarly called Yushchenko’s move “aprovocation promoting the rehabilitation of Nazi crimes” and “achallenge to the civilized world.”
Outgoing President Yushchenko, who lost the presidential electionson January 17, signed a decree conferring Bandera, the head of theOrganization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) in 1941-1959, the statusof a national hero.
Bandera’s supporters – mainly in Western Ukraine – claim he foughtfor Ukraine’s independence against both Soviet and German soldiers.However, many others in his country and Russia believe he was a warcriminal who collaborated with the Nazis during WWII and killedinnocent people.
The Federation of Russia’s Jewish Communities, or FEOR, in astatement issued Monday, said Yushchenko’s move “insults the memory ofthe victims” of Nazi crimes.
“The decree says Bandera was awarded ‘for his spiritualinvincibility, fight for national ideology, heroism and self-sacrificein a struggle for the independence of Ukrainian state’,” the document published on the organization’s website (www.feor.ru) reads. “Apparently,this way Yushchenko equates heroism and self-sacrifice to the massmurdering of the Jews and Poles that Bandera and his associates werewidely practicing.”
The document authors believe “such a political gesture is a challenge to the civilized world, to everyone who fought against Nazism” during the Second World War.
According to the FEOR, “anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi”actions by the Ukrainian leadership have become rather common in recentyears. They say Yushchenko’s decree signifies “disrespect to Sovietsoldiers that his troops fought against and to all people who gavetheir lives in order to let today’s Europeans be free.”The Federation of Russian Jews believes that the next Ukrainianpresident should reverse Yushchenko’s “disgraceful decrees” and makestatements against the revision of WWII results.
During his presidency Yushchenko has widely promoted Ukrainiannationalism. Previously, another leader of Ukrainian nationalists,Roman Shukhevych, was awarded the Hero of Ukraine title.
On January 22, Bandera’s grandson, also named Stepan, received the award for his grandfather.
“Even though it was a surprise to me, the president acted wisely,” he told Radio Liberty. “[Yushchenko] could have done it earlier, but that would have been perceived as an attempt to win votes.”
Search for new heroes in “ideological vacuum”
According to Russia’s Jewish community, now that Yushchenko, whogained slightly more than 5% of the vote in the recent election, has nochances left to continuing fighting for his presidency. Therefore,“he has decided to leave his mark on Ukraine’s history as a person whotried to immortalize the memory of the country’s nationalists.”
“Ukrainian society is split into two parts, one of which isstrongly opposed to the move and is angered by it… whilst the othersupports the president’s decision,” Andrey Glotser, representative of Russia’s
Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar told RT.
Following the collapse of the USSR, many former Soviet territoriesincluding Ukraine and the Baltic states have been in search of newnational heroes, he said. However, due to an “ideological vacuum”, thissearch is pretty difficult. “Their independence is quite young and these states look for new heroes among those who fought against the Soviet rule,” Glotser said.
“Instead of approaching history with clean hands and beingimpartial when considering the issue, they declare heroes of thosewhose morality was questionable since they were killing innocentpeople,” he said. The Nuremberg trials condemned the crimes of the Nazi and their accomplices, “so it is strange to see what is happening now in these states.”
“We believe there is no reasonable or logical explanation to this and there cannot be one,” he added.
Europe turns blind eye to heroization of Nazism
Some member states of the Council of Europe have lately become moreactive and aggressive in their heroization of Fascism and revisingresults of the Second World War, the Head of the State Duma ForeignAffairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev told Itar-Tass.
“Unfortunately, quite often these states use rather questionable formulations,” said Kosachev, who is also the head of the Russian delegation to the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE).
“In Ukraine, Bandera is honored as a fighter for independence. In Georgia, they blow up a memorial since, they claim, it is necessary in order to make way for building a [new parliament building],” he said.
According to the Russian official, the issue should be discussed openly, fairly and in an unbiased way.
However, “Ukraine, the Baltic states and Georgia have many sponsors, who, for geopolitical reasons, turn a blind eye” on what is happening in these states.
He said this kind of faulty policy is quite common in theinternational arena, including PACE, and vowed to continue fightingwith it by introducing relevant resolutions and condemnation of theheroization of Nazism.
Andrey Glotser, Lazar’s press secretary, echoed the Russian official opinion. He said he thinks that “thereaction of European leaders such as France, Germany, Great Britain andothers should be harsher. However, for some reason, statements we hearare not strong enough.”
Meanwhile, the reaction of some in Ukraine was certainly strong.Konstantin Zarudnev, a member of the Leninsky District Council and anactivist from the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine burned hispassport in protest against naming Bandera a hero, Interfax agencyreports.
He said Yushchenko’s decree “legalizes state terrorism and murder” because Stepan Bandera led “the killings of school directors, teachers, and law enforcement officials.”
Bandera was accused of murder and terrorism by Soviet authorities.On October 15, 1959, he was assassinated by a KGB agent in Munich,Germany.