KYIV, Ukraine – Hundreds of Ukrainian nationalists staged a torchlight march through the capital Kiev to mark the birthday of Stepan Bandera, the leader of a rebel militia who fought alongside Nazi soldiers in World War II.
Sunday’s march came amid lingering concerns over the gathering of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border, which many believe could be a prelude to an invasion. Much of eastern Ukraine has been under the control of Russian-backed separatist rebels since 2014.
“Today, as there is a war with the occupier at the front and the fight against the ‘fifth column’ continues in the rear, we remember and honor the memory of Stepan Bandera,” said Andriy Tarasenko, leader of the Nationalist Right Party. Sector.
During World War II, Bandera led the Ukrainian insurgent army, whose men killed thousands of Jews and Poles, including women and children, while fighting alongside Nazi Germany against the Army. red and the communists.
Bandera supporters claim they sided with the Nazis against the Soviet army in the belief that Adolf Hitler would grant Ukraine independence.
Expressions of admiration for Bandera and other collaborators gained momentum and status following the 2014 revolution in Ukraine, which toppled Viktor Yanukovych’s regime while claiming to be a Russian stooge, and triggered an armed conflict with Russia.
The reverence of Nazi collaborators, including the murderers of Jews, is a growing phenomenon in Eastern Europe, where many regard these individuals as heroes because they resisted Soviet communism.