Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United Nations Yuriy Sergeyev speaks during a Security Council meeting on the crisis in Ukraine, at the U.N. headquarters in New York March 3, 2014
Russia has slammed Ukraine’s UN envoy for justifying Ukrainian Nazi collaborators on the sidelines of the Security Council session. The diplomat said the USSR fabricated accusations against Ukrainian nationalists during the Nuremberg Trials in the 1940s.
“With these words, [the] Ukrainian representative at the UN offended the memory of killed Russians, Ukrainians, Jews, Poles, and citizens of other nationalities who fell victims to the atrocities committed by Ukrainian Nazi supporters,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement responding to Ukrainian diplomat Yuriy Sergeyev. “There is a lot of proof of their violent crimes. We are ready to acquaint Sergeyev with them.”
Speaking after the UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday, the Ukrainian envoy accused “the Russian-Soviet side at the time” of attempts to press on “the Western allies to declare [the] Bandera movement members and others murderers.”
“The Nuremberg Trials (a series of 13 trials carried out in Nuremberg, Germany between 1945 and 1949) did not declare it. Why? Because the facts were falsified and the Soviet Union’s position at the time was unjust,” the diplomat told reporters.
In his statement, Sergeyev particularly referred to the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), which was led by Stepan Bandera, and its militant branch, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, headed by Roman Shukhevich.
In the summer of 1941, Bandera called on “the people of Ukraine to help the German army to defeat Moscow and Bolshevism.” However, Bandera and Hitler failed to reach an agreement as Nazi Germany refused to support the idea of an independent Ukrainian state. Bandera was arrested in 1942 and sent to a concentration camp. He was released two years later.
Sergeyev asked not to “generalize” or assume that all residents in the western regions of Ukraine are nationalists or followers of Bandera, a controversial leader of the nationalist movement which collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II and was involved in the ethnic cleansing of Poles, Jews, and Russians.
“Millions of Ukrainians in the west are normal European citizens,” he stressed, saying the same applies to the nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party members.
The comment by the Ukrainian envoy comes amid a wide presence of far-right groups in the recent coup. Aligned within the nationalist-radical umbrella group Right Sector, the armed groups violently fought in Kiev to overthrow President Yanukovich.
Ukraine remains divided on the nationalist issue and the events of WWII. Nationalism has traditionally been strong in the west of the country, where in some areas, Victory Day (May 9) was declared a day of mourning in 2013. In the city of Lvov, the day ended in scuffles.
In eastern Ukraine, the glorification of such figures as Bandera and Shukevich, as well as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, has always prompted protests.
The division between west and east sharpened one more time in 2010, when then-President Victor Yushchenko posthumously honored Bandera and Shukhevich with the title of ‘Hero of Ukraine.’
The move was condemned by the European Union as well as a number of Jewish organizations around the world. The award sparked anger in Russia – where Bandera is regarded as a fascist – and Poland, where he is blamed for organizing the mass killings of Poles.
In 2011, the Ukrainian constitutional court recognized the presidential order as invalid.