Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Ukraine Victory Day celebrations marred by nationalist violence (VIDEOS)

RT | May 9, 2017

Despite violence and provocative behavior from radical nationalists, thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets to hold Immortal Regiment marches and other events to mark the 72nd anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.

Nationalist provocateurs then tried to block the procession from entering the Park of Eternal Glory. Though police managed to clear the way, several fights broke out between marchers and nationalists who continued shouting slogans by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Police did not heed calls by veterans to restore order and guarantee safe passage to the monument.

A number of the marchers faced trouble with the police also, not being allowed to unfurl the Banner of Victory, as it’s considered a communist symbol, and a man was also arrested for carrying a banner of the ribbon of St George. A few veterans carrying the ribbon were also taken aside, though not detained.

In Odessa, participants held up images not only of their relatives who fought in WWII but also the victims of the 2014 Trade Unions House fire in which nearly 50 people were killed by nationalist extremists.

At the Odessa march, chants of "Odessa - Hero City!" and “Get out of Odessa, Banderites!” (referring to WWII-era nationalist leader Stepan Bandera) were heard along with Soviet songs.

Later a brawl broke out between marchers, police and nationalists after a former leader of the far-right group Right Sector, Sergey Sternenko, held up an image of UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army) commander Roman Shukhevych which provoked some of the marchers.

Police intervened and separated the two sides, though nationalists continued shouting their slogans. Thirteen people were arrested for disorderly conduct along with another fifteen for carrying Soviet and communist symbols.

Violence also broke out in other parts of the country. In Dnepropetrovsk, six police officers and eight civilians were hurt in confrontations.

Overall, more than 50 people were arrested across Ukraine, while fifteen activists and eight police officers were injured, according to police.

But there were no incidents reported in west Ukraine, including the Lvov, Zhytomyr, Khmelnytsky, Rovne, and Uzhgorod regions were commemorations were also being held.

Reflecting on its history during WWII and the Soviet era is a contentious issue in Ukraine.

Guerilla fighters such as the OUN and the UPA have been glorified, particularly in western Ukraine, as national liberators against Soviet oppression, despite their collaboration with the Nazis and ethnic cleansing of tens of thousands of Poles and Jews in areas under their control.

Today, anything seen as potentially glorifying the Soviet Union is banned. President Petro Poroshenko has taken a dim view of the march of the Immortal Regiment, claiming it is used as a justification for "Russian expansion into neighboring countries".

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