Kiev (GPA) – Around 10,000 far-right Ukrainian nationalists marched in Kiev on Saturday to mark the 75th anniversary of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).
Saturday marked the 75th anniversary of the far-right Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) which was celebrated by a torch-lit march of around 10,000 Ukrainian nationalists representing some of the worst groups in Ukraine. Prior to the torch march, the day was marked by a large rally which was marked by speeches from leaders of nationalist organizations such as Right Sector, National Corps, and Svoboda.
The organization being commemorated by these groups – the UPA – is a far-right militant partisan movement that was born during the Second World War as a splinter group from the infamous Stepan Bandera’s Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). The OUN allied with Germany during World War II, and both the OUN and the UPA were responsible for countless atrocities, such as the mass slaughter of between 76,000 and 106,000 Polish civilians and the murder of local Jewish populations.
This history isn’t unknown to the modern admirers of the UPA, with Right Sector still using a version of the partisans flag. Former Right Sector leader-turned-MP, Dmytro Yarosh, whose image is often seen beside that of Bandera in Ukrainian stores and during celebrations. Yarosh is so deplorable, even western media acknowledged his fascist tendencies and involvement in terrorism during the 2014 coup.
The other groups present yesterday have similar politics to those of Right Sector, such as Svoboda, who was a partner in Yarosh’s 2014 electoral coalition. National Corps was also present, which is the political wing of the Azov battalion – which is primarily composed of unapologetic neo-Nazis. Azov is most well known as the far-right militant group made famous after the Ukrainian coup for flying their battalion flag and the swastika next to the flag of NATO.
Far from being ashamed of this history, the demonstrators from these groups that were in the streets of Kiev last night had some demands that Ukraine instead embraces it. Some of the demands of the groups gathered yesterday include elevating both Bandera and UPA leader Roman Shukhevych to the status of “heroes of Ukraine.”
Ukrainian media tried to downplay the reality of this situation. Ukraine’s media did acknowledge the day was to celebrate the UPA but tried to play up the fact that other Ukrainian holidays occur on October 14th. The Ukrainian media decided to make their articles about the fact that yesterday was “Day of the Protection of the Blessed Virgin,” “Cossack Day,” and “Defender Day,” but failed to mention that all these holidays are spawned from far-right Ukrainian nationalist narratives. They also attempted to whitewash the history of the UPA and OUN during the later stages of World War II, when the groups chose to ally with the Nazis.
Ukrainian media also attempted to minimize their fascist infestation by claiming that only around 2,000 attended the march. This number is debatable since the rally’s organizers, Ukrainian police, and impartial observers all estimate the attendance closer to 10,000. Official reports also show that between 4,500 and 5,000 police officers were on site to monitor the march, which seems excessive if there were only 2,000 attendees.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko also addressed the people of Ukraine Saturday, saying that the UPA was an “inspiration.”
Ukraine cannot sweep this infestation under the rug forever, and these movements seem to be continuing to grow since 2014. Ukraine courts these groups as the first line of defense for the junta government but it leaves them isolated from everyone. This includes all the friends they could have in Europe if they’d just shed their blatant fascism, with even fellow nationalists in countries such as Poland, saying the glorification of Nazi collaborators is too far.
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.