And the contrast with how Russians celebrated the same day could not be greater
This year's celebration of victory in World War II on May 9th -- called "The Great Patriotic War" in Russia and the former Soviet states -- was a touching and memorable event in Russia. Each year millions participate in commemorative parades and lay flowers at war memorials. Surviving veterans put on their uniforms and medals, and are presented with red carnations as a symbol of thanks.
The black and orange striped St. George ribbon, which has a long history in Russian military tradition and forms part of the Soviet WWII victory medal, is worn by many people on this day as a sign of respect.
On Red Square, President Putin gave a speech that was markedly apolitical. He mentioned some of the impressive achievements of the peoples of the USSR during the war. His only reference to contemporary politics was calling for international unity against terrorism and avoiding "double standards" in international affairs (without mentioning any examples, though it will be clear to those who understand, who and what is meant):
Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko made a rather different address to mark the occasion. For him, it was another opportunity to preach hatred and fear toward Russia. According to him, the purpose of May 9th was to remember that the descendants of the Red Army and those who fought for Roman Shukhevich (a commander of the Nazi-collaborationist Ukrainian Insurgent Army which murdered thousands of Jews and Poles) were in the same trench resisting "Russian aggression" [in Ukrainian]:
Poroshenko and the "heroes" flanking him can be seen wearing remembrance poppies -- a symbol used in Britain and Commonwealth countries, originally to honor the dead of World War I. The present rulers of Ukraine, have decreed this symbol is to be used in Ukraine to remember the the dead of The Great Patriotic War - a title they have also banned and officially replaced with the western term World War II.
The banning of the St. George ribbon and even the term "Great Patriotic War" are still more signs of the Ukrainian Bandera putschists' pitiful self-degredation, their annihilation of everything related to Ukraine's true history and culture, and their slavish adoption of any and all trends which appear western in a pathetic attempt to ingratiate themselves with their masters.
It is also a manifestation of the clinical Russophobia which underpins Ukrainian nationalist ideology. To Ukraine's nationalists, the St. George Ribbon is an intolerable reminder of Ukraine's inexorable ties with Russia, of shared sacrifice toward a common goal - of the fact that millions of Russians died to save Ukraine physically and culturally from annihilation as a German colony. And it is a reminder that many western Ukrainians fought on the losing side.
Ukrainians attempting to mark the holiday in the traditional manner were met with violent assaults by fanatic Bandera sympathizers across Ukraine. In Kiev, a courageous woman and her daughter dared to show themselves in public at the city's war memorial wearing St. George ribbons:
It did not take long for some of Ukraine's "heroes" to set upon them. There was outrage in the Russian Twittersphere:
— NedoUkraïnka (@ValLisitsa)May 11, 2016
It soon emerged, as reported by a correspondent for the Ukrainian news site Strana, that the man pictured assaulting the woman was a confirmed Neo-Nazi and that his grandfather had fought in the SS division "Galicia":
They introduced themselves to us patriots, members of the ATO. They said that they tear off the marchers' St. George ribbons and burn them.One of them was wearing a black T-shirt with the emblem of the SS division "Galicia". He told us that his grandfather fought in this division. And he is now fighting against the Russians in the ATO, "just like his grandfather." "And I do not want people with Colorado ribbons to come to Kiev - the symbols of Russian aggression. I tear them off and burn them."
The term "Colorado" is derived from the parasitic orange and black striped Colorado potato beetle. Ukrainian nationalists use it in reference to the people of Donbass and anyone not sufficiently Russophobic - i.e., that they are vermin who need to be exterminated.
This was not the only outrage to take place in Kiev. The video below shows Ukrainian nationalists burning more St. George ribbons and assaulting elderly veterans:
One of the worst assaults took place against an elderly woman. Her sister had a heart attack and died soon after the incident:
Even mainstream media were unable to totally ignore the attacks. Deutsche Welle reported the following:
In Kyiv, a group of about 1,000 people also laid wreaths to a WWII memorial for Victory Day. However, they were heckled by a group of youths flying a flag of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, an armed faction that fought Soviet troops in during the war. The group also scuffled with the police.
At least two people were injured during a fight in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, after young Ukrainian nationalists attempted to grab memorial ribbons and flags from a pro-Russian group near a wartime monument.
In Kharkov, which is located close to the Russian border and has a predominately Russian speaking population, the Bandera contingent appeared to be opposed by the majority who screamed "Fascists shall not pass!":
Ukrainian-Russian journalist Anatoly Wasserman in a column for the Russian paper Izvestia, explained why May 9th poses such a threat to Ukrainian nationalists (trans. Olga Beskrovnova):
The Ukrainian myth calls all the achievements of Russian civilization crimes, and everything that Russian civilization rejects as virtues. Russian history is full of victories in just defensive wars and the totalitarian sect of Ukrainian supporters hates not only the fact that we regularly beat its sponsors (Polish and German Nazis, the Austrian and - soon - the US imperialists), but also that we always able to win by our own forces. The Ukrainian myth glorifies only defeat (in 1918 several hundred Kiev schoolboys, students, and cadets of military schools were thrown against a few thousand Red Guards near the village Kruty, and were smashed and scattered - a couple hundred victims of senseless suicidally ignorant hassle were declared as heroes) or participation in a foreign aggression (1659 - near Konotop a part of the Cossacks who broke the Pereiaslav oath, were used to lure Russian aristocratic cavalry into an ambush - it was proclaimed as a great Ukrainian victory). Until the idea of the separation of Ukrainians from Russians vanishes into the dump of historical errors, all those who sincerely believe in their Ukrainian identity will feel Victory Day as their historical defeat.
The fact that the right-wing extremist part of Ukrainian society met opposition in both Kiev and Kharkov is a sign that Ukraine's historic, cultural, and blood ties to Russia represent bonds which are not easily or quickly broken.
Indeed, Gallup polls now show Petro Poroshenko's popularity has plummeted to 17% (Yanukovych's support stood at 28% when he was overthrown). Support for the Ukrainian government as a whole stands at a dismal 8%.
Some contacts I have in Ukraine, who supported Maidan, now say they realize severing trade ties with Russia in favor of the EU was a mistake.
One thing is for sure. Two years following the Maidan coup, we have not heard the last from Ukraine.
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