13:01 GMT04 July 2020
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    Ukrainian government officials have vowed to pass a bill banning communist ideology, symbols, and propaganda, and equating the ideology with Nazism.

    Speaking on Ukrainian television on Saturday, Justice Minister Pavel Petrenko promised that "before May 9th, parliament will pass a decommunization package." The minister noted that the initiative "is something we should have done 20 years ago," adding the he was "convinced that the present parliament has the sufficient political will and the votes" to finally remove all traces of communist influence in the country.

    Earlier this week, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk appealed to the Ukrainian parliament to "adopt these laws, and to finally ban communist and Nazi ideologies as twin brothers opposed to humanity."

    The measures referenced by Petrenko were proposed to Ukraine's parliament by the country's Cabinet of Ministers, and developed by the Institute for National Remembrance. The institute's proposals include equating communism to Nazism and the banning of the symbols of each, along with the granting of official recognition to the country's 20th century independence fighters, including members of Second World War-era nationalist armed formations accused of collaborating with Nazi occupation forces. The proposals also recommend celebrating Victory Day on May 8th, and calling the new holiday the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation, preserving the May 9th holiday out of respect for surviving veterans of the Second World War.

    On Sunday, Russian Foreign Ministry Special Representative for Human Rights Konstantin Dolgov responded to the parliamentary initiative, stating that the attempt to equate communism with Nazism "is a highly cynical position" which "contradicts international law, including the results of Nuremberg." Dolgov added that Kiev's "politicized antics surrounding May 9th" are highly inappropriate, given the holiday's sacred status for millions of Ukrainians.

    Ukrainian social media commentators weighing in on the proposed bill have raised questions about the many possible ambiguous situations the law will create. OdessaTalk commentator Nikolai Holmov, first clarifying that he was not a supporter of communist ideology, asked what would happen to the Second World War veterans decorated with Soviet medals marching under Soviet army flags, or the more recent veterans of the Afghan war, decorated with similar medals and symbols. The blogger pondered about the future of the country's war memorials, its remaining Lenin statues, and the tens of thousands of Soviet stars and hammer and sickle symbols covering public buildings across the country. If they are to be removed, who is to pay for them? Holmov asked about just how far the bill aims to go, wondering whether communist memorabilia, philosophical works, or the Communist Party itself would also be subject to the ban. Finally, the blogger asked about the unintended consequences to result in the event that the bill is poorly crafted and badly written, which he believes is highly likely.

    Communist Witch Hunt

    For post-Maidan Kiev, the initiative to ban communist ideology and its symbols is just the next logical step in its bitter and oddly fanatical struggle against the country's communists. Earlier this week, the Ukrainian Security Service summoned Communist Party leader Pyotr Symonenko for questioning over the politician's recent visit to Russia. Authorities noted that they were considering launching a criminal case against him over his comments on Russian television which they say may have amounted to crimes "against the foundations of Ukraine's national security."

    Moreover, earlier this year, the Ministry of Justice unsuccessfully appealed to the Kiev District Administrative Court to ban the activities of the Communist Party. Stating that Kiev judges' unanimous refusal to try the Justice Ministry's Case amounted to "connivance to communists' procedural terrorism," Justice Minister Petrenko vowed to "see this trial through to the end."

    Members of Ukraine's Communist Party, speaking out against the post-coup government since its toppling of the Yanukovych government in February 2014, have been subject to official and unofficial persecution in the country ever since. Kiev has accused the party of supporting and financing the country's "separatist terrorists" in Donbass, with authorities launching hundreds of civil and criminal cases against the party and its members, while the party's faction in parliament faced dissolution by presidential decree months ahead of October's elections. Communists working in the civil and state services sectors have been subjected to Kiev's lustration campaign, while ordinary party members and party offices have faced regular attacks by gangs of radical nationalists.

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    Tags:
    law, ideology, communism, Ukrainian Communist Party, Pavel Petrenko, Petro Poroshenko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Pyotr Symonenko, Ukraine
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