The far-right was out in force
Stepan Banderra is the architect of wartime ethnic cleansing of Poles from Western Ukraine.
During the campaign between 50,000 (Ukrainian low estimate) and 130,000 (Polish high estimate) Poles and moderate Ukrainians were massacred by Banderra's followers.
KIEV, January 2 (AFP) - Thousands of Ukrainian nationalists held a torchlight procession across Kiev on Thursday in honour of a 1940s anti-Soviet insurgent branded by Moscow as a Nazi collaborator whom Europe must reject.
The march on what would have been Stepan Bandera’s 106th birthday moved along the same streets on which hundreds of thousands rallied for three months last winter before ousting a Moscow-backed president.
Some wore second world war-era army uniforms while others draped themselves in the red and black nationalist flags and chanted “Ukraine belongs to Ukrainians” and “Bandera will return and restore order”.
“The Kremlin is afraid of Bandera because he symbolises the very idea of a completely independent Ukraine,” Lidia Ushiy said while holding up a portrait of the far-right icon at the head of the march.
Bandera is a mythical but immensely divisive figure in Ukraine whom some compare to Cuba’s Che Guevara.
His movement’s slogan – “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!” – was also the catchphrase of last year’s pro-European revolt.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in March called that uprising’s leaders “the ideological heirs of Bandera, Hitler’s accomplice during World War II.”
Bandera was the ideological patron of resistance fighters who fought alongside invading German forces.
The Ukrainian famine of the 1930s created by Soviet collective farming had turned many against Moscow and in favour of any foreign presence that could help fend off Kremlin rule.
But Bandera himself was arrested by the Germans for trying to set up a Ukrainian government and spent the war years in a concentration camp.
He was poisoned by a KGB agent in Munich in 1959.
Bandera was posthumously decorated with a Hero of Ukraine medal in January 2010 by the then pro-Western president Viktor Yushchenko.
The decision outraged Russia and was revoked by the Moscow-backed leadership prior to its own ouster in February.