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A Terrorist as "Hero of Ukraine"

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An award given by Viktor Yushchenko, the lame-duck President of Ukraine, of "Hero of Ukraine" title to Stepan Bandera honors a leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) implicated in terrorism and mass murder, and it is likely to further divide Ukraine before the crucial second round of the presidential elections. Stepan Bandera headed a faction of the OUN, a terrorist organization that was involved in mass murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians and POWs. Yushchenko by his another decree on January 29, 2010 honored the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) that was created by the Bandera faction of the OUN (OUN-B) in Spring 1943 as fighters for independence of Ukraine.

Viktor Yushchenko, suffered a defeat in the presidential elections this month winning 5.5 percent of the national vote and taking fifth place, but he won more than a quarter of the votes and became a close second in three regions of Galicia in Western Ukraine. This former Austro-Hungarian province is the only region in Ukraine in which a majority of the respondents of a 2009 national survey, which was commissioned by the author and conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, have positive perceptions of the Bandera faction of the OUN and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

The Ukrainian auxiliary police, a large part of which was under influence of the OUN-B and joined the UPA in Volhynia following orders from the Bandera faction of the OUN, assisted in implementing Nazi-led genocide of Jews, Ukrainians, Russians and other civilians and POWs. The OUN-B, by means of its control over the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, masterminded a campaign of ethnic cleansing of Poles in Volhynia during World War II and mounted an anti-Soviet terror campaign in Western Ukraine after the war. In Poland in the 1930s, Stepan Bandera was convicted for his leading role in an assassination of a Polish Minister of Internal Affairs. Archival documents that I located at the Roosevelt Presidential Library indicate that Stepan Bandera and other OUN leaders were involved in a Nazi-led plot to assassinate president Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1941. The US intelligence documents reveal that a Gestapo agent, working under cover of a German press attache' in Buenos Aires, recruited, with help of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, the Polish minister's assassin and other OUN members with a terrorist mission to kill President Roosevelt.

Ukrainians in other regions have much more negative attitudes, compared to the respondents in Galicia, towards the OUN-B and the UPA. Only 6 percent of the respondents in Ukraine as the whole express very positive, and 8 percent mostly positive, attitudes towards the Bandera faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. Forty percent of the respondents believe that the OUN-B and the UPA were involved in mass murder of Ukrainians, Jews, and Poles in the 1940s, while only 14 percent, mostly in Galicia, deny such an involvement.

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Ivan Katchanovski teaches at the Conflict Studies and Human Rights Program and the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa. He was a Visiting Scholar at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, a (more...)
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