Nationalists clash with WW II veterans in Ukraine
Ukrainian nationalists in Lviv, western Ukraine, clashed with police on 9 May during a ceremony commemorating the victory of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany during World War II, which they saw as oppressive and anti-Ukrainian.
The incident occured as about 100 people, among them World War II veterans, gathered for a ceremony at the Hill of Glory memorial in Lviv jointly with members of the Russian Unity and Motherland parties, the Kyiv Post reported.
When a Banner of Victory symbolising victory over fascism was being handed over, ten nationalists broke the police barricade and ran to the scene of the ceremony. Police interfered, trying to keep them in their place.
Some activists of the Svoboda (Liberty) nationalist organisation fiercely resisted police, shaking the fence put up around the Hill of Glory memorial. Scuffles erupted with police.
Ukrainian nationalists say Ukraine suffered in an identical manner from both Hitler's Germany and Stalin's USSR. But many Ukrainians, especially in the country's Russian-speaking east, have a completely different reading of history and take pride in the assertion that the former USSR contributed most to defeating fascism (see 'Background').
A victory parade was held in Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Monday, RIA Novosti reported.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who spoke at a rally in downtown Kyiv, said: "The victory over fascism is our festival that unites the Ukrainian people."
He warned nationalists against attempts to sow discord in society. "For the sake of cheap popularity, some activists are again trying to split Ukrainians," he said, adding that the government would "properly respond" to such actions.
But in a separate incident, a wreath which the Russian Consul-General in Lviv, Oleg Astakhov, was to lay at Lviv's military cemetery was snatched and stamped to pieces.
"Russia and the whole of the sane world are celebrating Victory Day. All of these games on this day are an insult to the memory of those buried here, who sacrificed their lives to allow us to live in a normal society," Kyiv Post quotes the Russian diplomat as saying.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych recently attracted criticism for polarising politics in Ukraine.
In April 2010, the presdient rejected the notion that the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine, known as Holodomor, was "an act of genocide against one nation".
Holodomor – which literally translated means "killing by hunger" – was a famine premeditated by Stalin which saw between 2.7 and four million people die, according to estimates. Stalin's aim was the destruction of the Ukrainian peasantry and Ukrainian nationalism, according to scholars.
As a result, some Ukrainian nationalists joined the Nazi forces when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. The majority of Ukrainians fought alongside the Red Army and the Soviet resistance.
Stepan Bandera, leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement, was killed by the Soviet Secret Service in Munich in 1959. Bandera, who proclaimed an independent Ukrainian state in 1941, was imprisoned by the Nazis and released in 1944.
In January 2010, outgoing President Viktor Yuschenko posthumously awarded Bandera the title of Hero of Ukraine. One year later the award was annulled under President Viktor Yanukovich.