Fr Vladimir Vigilyansky, the head of the Patriarchal press service, harshly criticised Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko for awarding the title of Hero of the Ukraine to Stepan Bandera. He told Interfax-Religion on Friday, “Obviously, this is a case where the actions of the head of state did not bring together, but, rather, separated his people”. In his view, “This is not the first such action by President Yushchenko, but the people gave an assessment of his record in the last election in the way that they cast their ballots. As Herostratos of Ephesus sought to enter into history through the destruction of the temple of Diana, Yushchenko will go down in history for his irresponsible actions against his own people”. Fr Vladimir’s remarks were in reaction to the award of the title of Hero of the Ukraine to Stepan Bandera by Yushchenko during the commemoration of the Day of Unity of the Ukraine. Yushchenko tried to justify his action by saying, “He defended the national idea and struggled for an independent Ukrainian state”.
The Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FEOR) considered that Viktor Yushchenko’s award of the title of Hero of the Ukraine to OUN leader Stepan Bandera is nothing but a provocation, which “promotes the rehabilitation of the crimes of the Nazis” and “insults the memory of the victims of these crimes”. “The decree of President Yushchenko said that Bandera received this [posthumous] award ‘for his indomitable spirit, for his defence of the national ideology, and his heroism and sacrifice in the struggle for an independent Ukrainian state’. Obviously, what President Yushchenko considered ‘his heroism and sacrifice’ was the murder of Jews and Poles, in which Bandera and his associates were deeply implicated”, said a statement of the FEOR, issued on Monday in Moscow. The FEOR is perplexed by the fact that the collaboration of Bandera with the Nazis during World War II and his participation in the formation of the SS units “does not bother Mr Yushchenko”. The FEOR believed, “such political gestures are a challenge to the entire civilised world, to all those who fought against Nazism, including those Ukrainians who fought against the fascists during the Great Patriotic War”.
The Jewish community deeply regretted the fact that, in recent years, “we have witnessed a series of anti-Semitic and pro-fascist actions by the Ukrainian leadership”. An example was the action of another Ukrainian presidential candidate, Sergei Ratushnyak, the Mayor of Užgorod, “who dishonoured the whole of Europe for his anti-Semitic remarks, who erected monuments to another ‘hero’ of the Ukrainian nationalists, the so-called Hero of the Ukraine Roman Shukhevich, who was nothing but another collaborator, and other actions of this kind. Yushchenko actually returned to the political life of a modern European state the names of individuals who openly advocated fascism and extreme nationalist views, who participated in heinous crimes against humanity that were condemned at the Nuremberg trials”, the document said.
According to the statement, the decree of Yushchenko conferring the title of Hero of the Ukraine OUN leader is a blatant sign of disrespect to the Soviet soldiers who fought against the armed band of Stepan Bandera, to those who gave their lives so that all the nations of Europe could live in freedom. The point of view of the FEOR is that Yushchenko, having lost his bid for the office of president in the last election, decided to enter into the history of the modern Ukraine as a man who attempted to perpetuate the memory of Ukrainian Nationalists who were nothing but Nazi collaborators. The next president of the Ukraine, who will inherit such “heroes”, “shall have to labour for a long time to wash away and restore the reputation of his country, both in the domestic and the international arena, because of the actions of his predecessor”. In the opinion of the FEOR, the new Ukrainian leadership must “rescind these shameful edicts of the current president and express the inadmissibility of revisionism regarding the history of the Second World War and its results”.
In related news, a meeting of the Israeli government reported an increase in anti-Semitism in the Ukraine. Professor Dina Porat, the Head of the Centre for the Study of anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University, noted in a speech the danger of growing anti-Semitism in countries such as the Ukraine, where observers saw unprecedented activity by different anti-Semitic groups during the election campaign, the World Congress of Russian Jewry (VKRE) told Interfax-Religion on Monday. The VKRE welcomed the decision of the Israeli government establishing an interdepartmental working group with the responsibility of monitoring and centralising all materials related to anti-Semitism in the world. The group will work with public organisations who deal with the theme of anti-Semitism.
22 and 25 January 2010