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Russian diplomat warns Ukraine’s move to sanitize WWII-era extremists can rip nation apart

February 15, 14:24 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman believes an information campaign aimed at promoting the Ukrainian Insurgent Army will only create a rift in society

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Members of Ukraine's nationalist movement

Members of Ukraine's nationalist movement

© AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov

MOSCOW, February 15. /TASS/. An information campaign aimed at promoting the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA, outlawed in Russia), announced by the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, will only create a rift in society, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a briefing on Wednesday.

"The campaign dubbed ‘The Ukrainian Insurgent Army: a Response of the Unconquered People’ stipulates changing the previous assessment of UIA’s activities, claiming to unite the Ukrainian nation, as such campaigns usually do claim," Zakharova noted. "But in fact, (such activities) only lead to a deepening rift in society."

"Such initiatives allegedly brought about by (Ukraine’s) civil society, emerged in the background of the Donbass crisis," Zakharova resumed. According to her, "the real aim of this absolutely anti-Ukrainian campaign is clear: it aims at doing everything possible to destroy the Russian-Ukrainian historical and cultural unity which has been developing for centuries."

"This is being done to please those who build their concepts upon the primitive view of Russia as Ukraine’s enemy. This is a plain concept that is being imposed on Ukrainians," the Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman added. Such initiatives, in her words, "deepen the rift in society which is already facing a lack of unity."

According to Vladimir Vyatrovich, Head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, "during the first stage, the campaign will focus on spreading information about the insurgents’ struggle against the Nazi invaders." "In the second half of 2017, the campaign will turn to UIA’s anti-communist activities as part of the fight against the totalitarian communist regime in the Baltic states and Eastern European countries," he said.

Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and Ukrainian Insurgent Army

During World War II, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN, outlawed in Russia), collaborating with the Nazi intelligence agencies, waged war against the Soviet authorities. In 1943, it established the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA). In February 1943, Ukrainian nationalists launched a campaign aimed at exterminating the Polish population of Ukraine’s Volyn region. Their activities culminated on July 11, 1943 in a bloodbath, when the OUN-UIA units attacked nearly 100 Polish settlements slaughtering around 100,000 people, primarily women, children and the elderly.

After Ukraine was liberated from Nazi occupation, the UIA turned around to fight against the Red Army, Soviet law enforcement, Communist party members and intellectuals coming from the eastern part of the country. The UIA headquarters and units were formally dismissed on September 3, 1949, but its small separate groups remained active until 1956.

The figure of Stepan Bandera, leader of the 20th century Ukrainian nationalist movement, who closely collaborated with the German Nazis during World War II, is still tearing Ukrainian society apart. Feelings towards him range from complete support in some western parts of Ukraine to fiercely antagonistic attitudes towards him in the rest of the country.

In 1941-1959, Bandera headed the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, so its members are called "Banderites". Given the reign of terror and waves of massacres carried out before and during World War II, it is no surprise that Poland considers Bandera to be a criminal and a terrorist.

On July 22, 2016, the Polish parliament passed a document declaring the crimes committed by the OUN and UIA against the Polish population in 1943 and 1944, a genocide. Meanwhile, in 2015, Ukraine’s parliament recognized their activities as the struggle for Ukraine’s independence.

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