KIEV, December 7. /TASS/. The law, adopted by Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (parliament), on recognizing members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and its affiliated Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA, both outlawed in Russia) as "combat veterans" will prompt the victims of crimes committed by nationalists to start lodging claims against Ukraine in international courts, Director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, Eduard Dolinsky, said on Friday.
"By adopting such laws, today’s Ukraine assumes responsibility for war crimes committed by those groups and which have no period of limitation, paving the way for victims of these crimes and their heirs to file lawsuits against Ukraine in international (courts)," he wrote on Facebook.
The Head of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee pointed out that "war criminals and organizers of anti-Jewish rioting will not only be awarded state honors but also receive benefits" thanks to the recognition of all OUN and UPA members as 'combat veterans'.
Furthermore, Dolinsky stressed that OUN members, who actively participated in staging and committing the murder of 1.5 million Ukrainian Jews, will also be recognized as veterans and provided with social benefits. "Those people subsequently formed UPA and carried out the mass murder of tens of thousands of innocent Polish civilians, which is known as the Volyn massacre and recognized as genocide in Poland," the Director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee emphasized.
The law adopted by Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada is a "denial of the Holocaust, falsification of history, a mockery of the memory of millions of innocent victims, blatant contempt for their country and people and their European choice," he stated.
On December 6, Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada recognized WWII-era collaborators with the Third Reich, OUN and UPA, who carried out atrocities and participated in the Holocaust, as ‘combat veterans’. In total, 236 lawmakers voted in favor of a bill amending the list contained in a law "On the Status of War Veterans and their Social Protection Guarantees," surpassing the required minimum of 226 votes.
The law previously deemed only UPA members, who fought against the Nazi German Army in 1941-1944 and were later rehabilitated as victims of political repression to be combat veterans. However, those who were involved in subversive activities against the Soviet government in 1944-1956 will also be deemed to be combat veterans.
An explanatory note says that as of late May 2018, about 1,200 members of the OUN and the UPA were still alive. They will now be provided with 20 social benefits such as utility and public transport discounts.
OUN and UPA
The extreme right wing Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists was active mostly in Western Ukraine. In order to establish an independent Ukrainian state, which was its chief goal, the OUN relied on the use of extremist methods, including terrorist attacks. During World War II, the OUN collaborated with Nazi intelligence and waged a war against the Soviet authorities. In 1943, it established the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).
OUN and UPA mercenaries, called Banderites after Ukrainian Insurgent Army leader Stepan Bandera, were guilty of numerous crimes, namely participating in the Holocaust. According to a number of researchers, they killed at least one million people, including 200,000 Poles during a massacre in the Volyn Region, in addition to slaughtering tens of thousands of Jews, Russians, and multitudes of civilians.
In May 2015, Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko signed a law glorifying the OUN and the UPA, whose activities had been previously designated as ‘struggle’ for the country’s independence. Monuments to Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevich - the leaders of the 20th century Ukrainian nationalist movement - have been erected across Ukraine, memorial events and torchlight processions take place in their memory, and streets are named after them.