KIEV, Ukraine (JTA) — A right-wing nationalist Ukrainian party nominated its leader, who has made public anti-Semitic and xenophobic statements, to run for president.
Some 500 delegates of the Svoboda, or Freedom, political party unanimously endorsed Oleg Tiagnybok at the party’s 20th congress on Sunday.
National elections in Ukraine are slated for January.
Support for the party has swelled since recent regional elections, worrying Jewish community and human rights activists. In a March 15 Ternopol regional western Ukrainian legislature election, Svoboda won 35 percent of the vote — more than double the second-place Single Center party and four times more than the parties that make up the Ukrainian ruling coalition.
Svoboda’s influence spurred the Lvov regional commission recently to ban a Lvov Jewish charity’s screening of the film "Two Tangos," a movie about the Holocaust in Ukraine, for “ethnic incitement.”
Tiagnybok was expelled in 2004 from the parliamentary faction Our Ukraine after he addressed a meeting at the grave of the Ukrainian Rebellious Army commander in the Ivano-Frankovsk region using anti-Semitic slogans.
At meetings in Lvov and Ivano-Frankovsk in 2007, Tiagnybok said that "kikes” and the "Russian Mafia who now rule Ukraine" are to blame for all Ukraine’s problems.
Tiagnybok has denied he is anti-Semitic.
"I personally have nothing against common Jews, and even have Jewish friends, but rather against a group of Jewish oligarchs who control Ukraine and against Jews-Bolsheviks [in the past]," he told JTA in an interview in Lvov in 2007.