Ukraine strips nationalist leader Bandera of honor


(JTA) — A Ukrainian court reportedly has annulled a decree that posthumously granted nationalist leader Stepan Bandera the Hero of Ukraine award.

The announcement of the decree’s annullment was released Wednesday by the office of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. 

Former President Viktor Yuschenko last year granted the prestigious award to Bandera, the leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, shortly before national elections, which he lost. The award recognizes either heroism or achievement in labor.

The Ukrainian nationalist forces led by Bandera fought against the Nazis and the Soviet army in World War II, and led an armed battle against Soviet rule in Ukraine into the 1950s. Bandera was assassinated by a KGB agent in Munich in 1959. He is held in high esteem by Ukrainians.

Jewish groups in Ukraine and abroad decried granting the award to Bandera, calling him a Nazi collaborator.

Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, praised the announcement that Ukraine has stripped Bandera of the title.

"By annulling Bandera’s decoration, Ukraine has removed a disgraceful blot on the country’s moral standing in the world," Steinberg said in a statement released Wednesday. "As an ally of the Nazis, Bandera was complicit in the murder of thousands of Jews and the destruction of their towns and villages.

"Last year we joined the European Parliament in calling on Ukraine to remove the shameful award bestowed on Bandera. In doing so, Ukraine has restored its honor and has helped repair relations with both the Jewish and international communities."

Ukraine has bestowed the Hero of Ukraine on nearly 200 people since the award’s creation in 1998 by then-President Leonid Kuchma.

Recommended from JTA