(JTA) — Prosecutors in Ukraine have initiated a murder investigation against a Jewish former Soviet officer, now 94, who is suspected of killing a nationalist in 1952.
Boris Steckler is accused of throwing a grenade into a bunker where the victim and several other anti-Soviet underground fighters were hiding. His accusers claim he was working for the feared NKVD security service, which later became the KGB.
The General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine opened the probe against Steckler on April 18, the Ist Pravda news website reported last week based on documents it obtained from the National Advocacy Center, a nationalist and anti-Russian not-for-profit group.
Steckler is accused of killing Neil Hasevych, an artist who was a member of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, or OUN, which fought during the first half of the 20th century against Soviet domination. Leaders of OUN briefly collaborated with Nazi occupation forces before turning against them.
Nationalist groups in Ukraine have for years tried to prosecute Steckler. Last year, the Rivne District Administrative Court began reviewing a lawsuit connected to Steckler that nationalists brought against Ukraine’s SBU security service. The petitioners wanted the SBU to release old classified files about Steckler.
He declined to show up at the hearing in Rivne and appealed to the court to dismiss the petition. Steckler has declined to comment on the allegations made against him, the news website said.
Following a bloody revolution in 2014 that unleashed a wave of nationalist sentiment in Ukraine, the state has celebrated the legacy of OUN personalities and its military wing, the UPA, including commanders who are accused of responsibility for the murder of thousands of Jews and Poles
One such leader was Stepan Bandera, who has a large statue of him in the city of Lviv and streets named after him in several cities, including Kiev. Another is Roman Shukhevych, whom the director of the state-operated Ukrainian National Memory Institute recently praised as “one of five eminent personalities who have changed the course of history.”
Advocates of nationalist leaders like Bandera and Shukhevych claim their vision of Ukraine extended to Jews, some of whom served in UPA’s ranks. Some UPA militants also rescued Jews from the Holocaust.