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New Ukraine President May Crack Down on Far-Right Followers of Nazi Bandera

Sept. 23, 2019 (EIRNS)—Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has taken action which may indicate a crackdown on pro-Nazi elements, the London-based Jewish Chronicle (JC) reports in a Sept. 19 article by Sam Sokol. On Sept. 18, Zelenskiy’s government appeared to make its first move against what JC calls an “increasingly active far right,” by firing Volodymyr Viatrovych, a historian who headed the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory (UINM). Viatrovych oversaw a controversial campaign to rehabilitate wartime nationalists, the paper reports, including Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), a fascist movement whose members killed tens of thousands during World War II. The dismissal of UINM chief Viatrovych occurred after Zelenskiy hinted at a new direction for Ukraine’s policy on national memory.

Zelenskiy said that although he understood Bandera was “a hero for a certain part of Ukrainians,” he found it inappropriate that so many bridges and streets in Ukraine were named for him.

Viatrovych said Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk had assured him that the UINM would “retain the status of a national authority and policy instrument.” After Viatroyvch was fired, UINM’s budget was increased to £650,000, reported JC. With the proposed increase in the institution’s budget, it could mean the UINM will take a different approach to historical matters, opined Michael Colborne, whom Sokol identifies as “a journalist who has written extensively on the Ukrainian far-right.”

Sokol writes that despite this action, it remains to be seen if Zelenskiy will also take steps to rein in the contemporary Ukrainian Far Right. Though Zelenskiy purged the government right away of all Poroshenko supporters, he made an exception for Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, known for his ties to the Azov Movement, whose members have been implicated in attacks on minorities.

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