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Hundreds march in Ukraine in annual tribute to Nazi collaborator

Stepan Bandera led the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, which fought alongside Nazi Germany during the Second World War, killed thousands of Jews and Poles

Participants of an annual event in honor of Stepan Bandera march through Kyiv, Ukraine on Jan. 1, 2021. (Genya Savilou/AFP)
Participants of an annual event in honor of Stepan Bandera march through Kyiv, Ukraine on Jan. 1, 2021. (Genya Savilou/AFP)

JTA — Hundreds of people marched bearing torches in the capital city of Ukraine Friday in an annual tribute to a leader who collaborated with Nazi Germany.

Israel’s ambassador condemned the torchlight march Friday in Kyiv in memory of Stepan Bandera, issuing the strongest rebuke yet by an Israeli official of the event, which has grown in scope amid rising nationalism in Ukraine.

“We strongly condemn any glorification of collaborators with the Nazi regime. It is time for Ukraine to come to terms with its past,” Ambassador Joel Lion wrote on Twitter Saturday.

At the march, many participants waved banners carrying the symbol of the far-right Svoboda party, whose leaders have often made anti-Semitic comments, and banners reading: “Nationalism is our religion. Bandera is our prophet,” Pravda Ukraine reported.

During World War II, Bandera led the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, whose men killed thousands of Jews and Poles, including women and children, while fighting alongside Nazi Germany against the Red Army and communists.

A statue of Stepan Bandera in Lviv, Ukraine, September 2014. (Courtesy Andrey Syasko/via JTA)

Expressions of admiration for Bandera and other collaborators have increased in scope and status following the 2014 revolution in Ukraine, which toppled the regime of Viktor Yanukovych amid claims that he is a Russian stooge, and triggered an armed conflict with Russia.

In Lviv, Bandera’s birthplace, events celebrating him were also held and attended by many officials including Maxim Kozitsky, the head of the Lviv region. He and other officials laid wreaths on a monument for Bandera.

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