11:30 GMT31 May 2020
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    By signing controversial legislation aimed at honoring the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN-UPA) Ukraine's President may further aggravate tensions between Kiev and eastern Ukraine and alienate his Western partners.

    Ukrainian President Poroshenko stressed the need bring society together to celebrate of May 8 and 9 – the Day of Memory and Reconciliation and the Victory in World War II; however, Poroshenko's "good intentions" might be ruined by his decision to sign a controversial law that honors Ukrainian nationalist organizations.

    "Great-grandfathers and great-grandchildren should stand next to each other, side by side during the celebration, demonstrating the unity of views," Petro Poroshenko said, adding that the Ukrainian people had demonstrated both self-sacrifice and heroism in making an invaluable contribution to the victory over Nazism.

    However, it seems that Poroshenko's attempts to marshal the nation will be ruined in the blink of an eye, by signing controversial legislation honoring dozens of nationalist organizations, including the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and its paramilitary units UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army), Josh Cohen, a former State Department official noted. The bill has already been passed by the Verkhovna Rada.

    It is worth mentioning that OUN members, well-known Nazi collaborators, were involved in the Holocaust and the ethnic cleansing of Poles during the Second World War. They were also engaged in  partisan warfare against the Soviet Union after the war.

    Prominent Western historians Per Anders Rudling and Grover Carr Furr point out that the post war claims of the OUN-UPA to have fought Nazi Germany fall apart under careful scrutiny. Although there were certain frictions between Nazi commanders and the OUN leaders, in 1944 Ukrainian nationalists rushed to join German Waffen SS divisions, namely the 14th SS-Volunteer Division "Galician."

    Per Rudling stressed that fascist ideology played a central role within the organization. The idea of racial purity and the preservation of race was one of the fundamental issues of the OUN's conception. "The OUN shared the fascist attributes of anti-liberalism, anticonservatism, and anticommunism, an armed party, totalitarianism, anti-Semitism, Führerprinzip, and the adoption of fascist greetings," the historian highlighted.

    The Rada's action risks alienating Ukraine's supporters in the West and damaging Kiev's international reputation, Josh Cohen said. In addition, the law will inevitably aggravate further tensions between the Ukrainian leadership and Russian speakers of eastern Ukraine, which condemn both OUN-UPA insurgents and their heirs – the Ukrainian far-right parties and movements.

    Petro Poroshenko has chosen the black-and-red poppy flower as a symbol for the May holidays. Coincidentally, black and the red are the colors of the Ukrainian ultra-nationalist movement Right Sector that played an important role in the Euromaidan unrest and Kiev's military operation in eastern Ukraine. 


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    U.S. Department of State, ultra-nationalsm, Nazism, World War II, Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), Verkhovna Rada, Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), Petro Poroshenko, Europe, United States, Ukraine
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