Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine has protested a local region’s honoring of a collaborator with Nazi Germany.
Ambassador Joel Lion condemned the Lviv region’s decision to name 2019 the year of Stepan Bandera in a statement he published Tuesday.
Lion wrote that he is “shocked” by the recent decision.
“I cannot understand how the glorification of those directly involved in horrible anti-Semitic crimes helps fight anti-Semitism and xenophobia,” he wrote.
Lviv already has a large statue of Bandera, who collaborated for a time with Nazi forces that occupied what is now Ukraine and is believed to have commanded troops that killed thousands of Jews. Kiev and several other cities have streets named for him.
Bandera was assassinated by a KGB agent in Munich in 1959.
Once regarded by Ukrainian authorities as illegitimate to serve as national role models because of their war crimes against Jews and Poles, he and other former collaborators are now widely regarded as patriot heroes.
Lion’s harsh tone is remarkable in light of how Israel has largely refrained from commenting on the phenomenon. Last week, he also spoke about the issue.
In 2017, the former ambassador to Ukraine, Eliav Belotzercovsky, called the glorification of collaborators “a problem.”
Lion last week described the country’s nationalist heroes as “historically a horror for the Jews.”
Figures such as Bandera and Roman Shukhevych are widely seen as “heroes who fought for Ukraine’s independence,” but “we see them as the killers of Jews,” Lion said in an interview with local radio.
“A dialogue should be open between us so that we can see that we can talk openly about this bad time period because these issues will always arise in the Ukrainian-Israeli dialogue. This is a very necessary dialogue,” Lion said.