MOSCOW, Russia — A torch-lit march held in Kiev to honor a controversial anti-Soviet resistance leader shows Ukraine is following in the footsteps of the Nazis, a senior Russian foreign ministry official said Friday.
“Torch-lit marches in Ukraine demonstrate that it is continuing to move along the path of the Nazis! And this is in the center of civilized Europe!” Konstantin Dolgov, the foreign ministry’s human rights envoy, wrote on Twitter.
Dolgov was referring to a procession attended by thousands in Kiev on Thursday to celebrate the 106th birthday of Stepan Bandera, leader of World War II-era Ukrainian insurgents who battled against both the Soviets and the Nazis, but at times collaborated with Nazi forces who had invaded the Soviet Union.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has branded Bandera “Hitler’s accomplice,” while Russian media frequently refers to all those who back Kiev in the conflict in Ukraine as “Banderovtsy” or Bandera supporters.
However, in Ukraine Bandera is widely seen as a nationalist hero who took on the Communist regime.
Dolgov’s comments came as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pushed for the reopening of Ukraine peace talks between representatives of Ukraine, the pro-Russian rebels, Russia and the OSCE that stalled last month.
In a call between Lavrov and his Ukrainian, German and French counterparts, “The need was emphasized for the next meeting of the contact group to be held as soon as possible,” the ministry said.
Dolgov condemned the nationalist marchers in Kiev for attacking Russian journalists reporting for the pro-Kremlin Russian channel Life News, which many Ukrainians see as especially biased, even against the background of a fierce information war between the two countries.
“It seems like the marchers must have realized the lameness of their views,” Dolgov wrote sarcastically. “Otherwise, why attack Russian journalists who were carrying out their professional duty?”
Russia has reacted angrily to the alleged attack with the powerful Investigative Committee saying Friday it had opened a criminal probe into the incident. Unidentified attackers pushed a Life News journalist, took her phone and broke a camera, it said.