Kyiv Post | 12Jan2011 | Associated Press

Update:  Ukraine's alleged Nazi collaborator no hero

[W.Z. It is unfortunate that Kyiv Post uncritically publishes articles submitted by Ukrainophobes hiding within the Associated Press news service. Kyiv Post should, at least, insist that the name(s) of the author(s) be revealed and that obvious errors be corrected. Secondly, these Ukrainophobes within Associated Press consistently provide an uncritical platform for members of the Holocaust Industry, such as Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center to disseminate their hatred against Ukrainians.

The vitriol against Stepan Bandera -- a young man, who was elected head of the OUN(b) in late April 1941 and, in the face of Hitler's opposition, declared Ukraine's independence in Lviv on 30Jun1941 for which he was arrested and spent the rest of the war in a German concentration camp -- is obiously misplaced. Except for his "Declaration of Independence", Mr. Bandera was in no position to do anything significant. He is just a symbol -- a symbol for an independent Ukrainian state. In demonizing Stepan Bandera, these Ukrainophobes are really trying to delegitimize Ukraine's independence.

And I would further suggest that the "Hero status" was, in essence, conferred upon him by the 4th Directorate of the MGB (whose mandate was to fight against the OUN-UPA struggle for independence), when they arrested, tortured, murdered and deported millions of Ukrainians in his name as "Banderovtsi". For example, on 23Oct1947, some 259 men, women and children from the four Bereziv villages in the Carpathians were rounded up in one night and deported to Omsk and then north to a Gulag camp on the Irtysh River as "Banderovtsi". Every time a Ukrainophobe labels a patriotic Ukrainian as a "Banderovets", he is legitimizing the "Hero status" of Stepan Bandera.]

Ukraine is revisiting the painful question of whether to honor nationalist insurgents who briefly sided with the Nazis and are accused of killing Jews during World War II.

Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, was overrun by Nazis before the Soviets drove them out in 1944. Millions died on the front line and during occupation. The Ukrainian Insurgent Army initially collaborated with the Nazis, believing Hitler would grant Ukraine independence, but then went on to fight both Nazi forces and the Red Army. Many Jewish groups and scholars accuse the insurgents of staging pogroms and murdering Jews.

[W.Z. As a result of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact and the collaboration of Hitler and Stalin to initiate World War II, Western Ukraine was occupied by the Soviet Union from 17Sep1939 until 22Jun1941, at which time "Ukraine was overrun by the GermanWehrmacht before the Red Army drove them out in 1944". Far from collaborating with the Germans, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) was specifically created on 14Oct1942 to fight the German occupation. And they never fought against the Red Army. But they did fight against the SMERSH units and the MGB and MVD personnel that were sent in to re-establish Soviet rule. Finally, far from "staging pogroms", the UPA specifically welcomed Jewish volunteers -- especially doctors -- into their ranks.]

A court is preparing to rule on whether Roman Shukhevych, the head of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, deserves the posthumous Hero of Ukraine award, the country's top honor given to cultural, sports and other prominent figures. The court is considering a suit by a lawyer, who argues that Shukhevych cannot be called a Hero of Ukraine, since Ukraine did not exist as an independent country during his time.

Kremlin-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych suggested Shukhevych didn't, earning harsh criticism from the opposition.

The question of how to treat the partisans has polarized Ukraine, with the nationalist west of the country, where they were mainly based, seeing them as heroes and the Russian-leaning east condemning them as traitors. Supporters and opponents of the insurgent army have staged violent clashes in recent years in Kyiv during various historical commemorations.

Former President Viktor Yushchenko, who drew support from western Ukraine, had campaigned to honor the insurgent fighters the same way as Soviet army veterans and decreed to posthumously name Shukhevych and another insurgent leader, Stepan Bandera, national heroes.

The decisions caused an outcry from Jewish organizations. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish human rights group, said last year that Bandera's followers were linked to the deaths of thousands of Jews. [W.Z. The late Simon Wiesenthal and and Efraim Zuroff are prime examples of irresponsible Ukrainophobes of Jewish origin.]

Yanukovych, who has restored friendly ties with Moscow, made it clear he disagreed with his predecessor. In a terse statement on his website Wednesday, he reminded the public that a regional court last year had revoked the national hero title from Bandera, apparently suggesting the same approach holds true for Shukhevych.

Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party on Wednesday accused Yanukovych of pressuring the court and trying to "rewrite history and ... humiliate national heroes." The party vowed to defend Bandera's title.

The planned hearing by Ukraine's Supreme Administrative court on Wednesday was postponed until February due to a judge's absence.

Anatoly Podolsky, head of the Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies, said Ukrainian society was not yet ready to address the highly complicated issue of the nationalist insurgent army's until historians provide a thorough and unbiased analysis of the subject and until regular Ukrainians come to grips with their complicated and painful past.

"The Ukrainian national movement was diverse: it was negative and positive," Podolsky said, adding that the picture "is not only black-and-white."

Kyiv Post | 12Jan2011 | Reuters

Yushchenko: No Bandera - no statehood

Ukraine on Wednesday officially scrapped the hero status newly conferred on a wartime nationalist leader -- a move likely to fuel tension between the pro-Russian east and the nationalist west.

Former President Viktor Yushchenko sparked the ire of east Ukrainians a year ago, shortly before leaving office, by posthumously declaring World War Two nationalist Stepan Bandera a Hero of Ukraine.

Bandera was the ideological leader of nationalist fighters who fought for independence in western Ukraine in the turbulence leading up to the outbreak of war and beyond.

Bandera, who was assassinated by the KGB in 1959, has near-saint status among many people there and thousands of Bandera loyalists flock to the capital Kiev every year and tramp through the streets in his honour.

But this sentiment is not shared by those in the Russian-speaking east of Ukraine who hold views of Soviet history which are closer to those of Moscow.

Yushchenko's award sparked anger in Russia, where Bandera is regarded as a fascist, and from Poland, where he is blamed for organising the mass killings of Poles. The Simon Wiesenthal centre also expressed outrage, saying Bandera was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Jews. [W.Z. Why should Russia be concerned with Bandera, who never set foot on Russian territory? How could Bandera "organize mass killings of Poles" or the "deaths of thousands of Jews", when he was in a German concentration camp?]

In a statement on Wednesday, the office of President Viktor Yanukovych, who took over from the pro-Western Yushchenko in February and has tilted policy more towards Russia, said the honour conferred on Bandera "has been found invalid by a court ruling".

This appeared to foreshadow the announcement of a decision by the supreme administrative court which has the authority to scrap presidential decrees.

Yushchenko hit back, saying the move was a "gross error" by a presidency that "should be working for uniting society not dividing it".

Yushchenko's press secretary, Iryna Vannikova, quoted him as saying: "Attempts to re-write Ukrainian history and belittle Ukrainian heroes to please the Kremlin and Moscow with hired decisions of court, will only incline people against these authorities."

Another sign of the recurring regional tension in the ex-Soviet republic surfaced on New Year's Eve when a new monument to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin was blown up in a city in central Ukraine. Though most Ukrainians see Stalin as a symbol of Russian oppression, communists in the town of Zaporizhya had erected the monument there in his honour last May. It was blown up on Dec. 31, 2010 -- the eve of Bandera's birthday. The incident was later officially described as "a terrorist act".