Poroshenko: ‘UPA are heroes,’ will consider giving veterans legal status

2014/09/26 • News

Article by: Mat Babiak

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko believes that now is a good time to address the question concerning the status of the wartime Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) & Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).

During a press conference in Kyiv on Thursday, when asked about his position on whether UPA soldiers deserved recognition, Poroshenko said it is worth considering giving the veterans legal status as combatants in World War II.

“In Galicia, Ivano Frankivsk, Ternopil, Rivne, and Volyn this issue was already resolved by the local councils. Across the country it was not,” said the president. Poroshenko recognized that earlier the topic was divisive in the country, and because of this it was not addressed first hand. Instead, he said now was “the right time.”

“What is a warrior who defends his state, who protects it in the same way the soldiers of the UPA did…this is a good time to raise the issue,” said Poroshenko. He then added that he sees Ukrainian insurgent fighters as an example of heroism.

On Twitter, he repeated this sentiment, saying: “UPA soldiers – an example of heroism and patriotism to Ukraine.”

Poroshenko’s statements come nearing the UPA’s anniversary on October 14. Former president Yushchenko made similar inroads to define the UPA as war veterans, and bills have been proposed in the past to grant UPA veterans government benefits on par with their Soviet army counterparts, including higher pensions and public transportation discounts.

A controversial topic in Ukraine, The UPA fought against the Soviet Union, Poland, and Nazi Germany for Ukrainian independence from 1942-1956. Their history is particularly reviled among some in eastern Ukraine, Russia, and Poland, but extremely popular in western Ukraine to this day. Because of Ukraine’s Soviet legacy, the group never managed to attain state recognition.

The battle flag of the UPA became a popular symbol during the Euromaidan protests and current conflict with Russia, and is adorned by many Ukrainians as a “sign of the stubborn endurance of the Ukrainian national idea even under the grimmest conditions.”

The UPA has been described as “the most important example of forceful resistance to Communist rule,” and the mortality rate for Soviet troops fighting Ukrainian insurgents in Western Ukraine is said to be higher than the mortality rate for Soviet troops during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In turn, Russian propaganda has continued to this day to discredit its veterans and supporters as “Nazis” and “fascists” despite fighting both German and Russian fascism in World War II.

Source: Interfax-Ukraine
Source: UNIAN

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  • Dirk Smith

    Glory to the heroes!! For Ukraine only!!!

    • MichalRedel

      So you consider fascists and war criminals heroes?

      • Dirk Smith

        No, I was referring to Ukraine; not Russia.

        • MichalRedel

          Do you realise that the OUN/UPA “heroes” worshipped in Ukraine were fascists and often war criminals?

          • Dirk Smith

            Only in the repetitive narrative of Bolshevik propaganda. The only fascists today are Putin’s monkeys who have invaded Ukraine.

          • MichalRedel

            You are under influence of (Ukrainian) propaganda if you believe otherwise.

            OUN/UPA were fascists and war criminals, western historians from western countries like USA or Sweden write about it, not to mention Poland.

          • Dirk Smith

            I guess that explains why Bandera was detained in a Nazi concentration camp for nearly three years and then murdered by the muscovite KGB in 1959. He was a Ukrainian nationalist who fought to rid Ukraine of German and muscovite fascists. Your logic denotes RT propaganda. Open a book once in awhile.

          • MichalRedel

            Listen,you are clearly under influence of propaganda – Ukrainian propaganda created to whitewash OUN/UPA.

            You should read some WESTERN or Polish historians, instead of Ukrainian pseudo-historian whitewashers.

            OUN wasn’t a fascist part just because it collaborated with Nazi Germany. It was fascist because it’s own ideology was fascist and ressembled nazism.

            Generally speaking, Ukrainians speak about Russian and Soviet propaganda, but they are exactly the same, lying just as much – the subject of OUN/UPA is a great example.

  • Murf

    That’s a polite F. U. to Russia.
    Good work.

  • http://euromaidanpress.com Mat

    I think this has more to do with the parliamentary elections than anything. With the anniversary in 2 weeks or so, this gets ahead of the crowd who will be pandering for western Ukrainian votes. Lyashko’s Radical Party will surely play up the nationalist populist card, as will Svoboda. By getting ahead of them and putting this on the table, he takes away a major voting appeal for either of these two and gives it to his Bloc.

    Poro’s people must see Lyashko’s potential rise to 2nd largest party a serious threat, more serious than the Russian propaganda blowback that will follow.

    These snap elections will be very emotional, with guys like Lyashko getting votes simply based on loud statements and supporting the troops. This is an old vote grabbing card, just like Yushchenko used. Once this is over though, everyone will forget about it and it won’t be an issue nationally, much like the Russian regional language issue – lots of protests when it happened but now it’s just reflecting the reality on the ground. And just like that, honoring UPA vets is a reality on the ground and supported by many.

  • Lilianna Juhasz

    Call it what you choose, pandering, politics or election tactics. It’s said out in the open and it’s said with the weight of power instead of mumbled in back rooms, bars and private gatherings . I would rather hear it from a conservative direction than a radical one because it gives it far more legitimacy than bluster. This is a time for hope and idealism and recognizing the heroes of days gone by serves to inspire even the pessimist. UPA, OUN are the embodiment of a sense of patriotism and unfaltering love of one’s country that existed long before the Maidan and the Nebesnia Sotnia. The partisan warriors of our nation’s past remind us that we have frequently been forced to fight for our own country, human dignity and the right to self determination. More important, they remind us that nothing can kill the spirit that we inherited from those who fought, bled and died in the name of freedom.

    • http://euromaidanpress.com Mat

      The government is going to have to appeal to both its insurgent and partisan, and even cossack traditions to try to rally the country for what’s to come. In fact, this war may be what brings both the UPA and Red Army veteran sides together against a common enemy and finally allow for national reconciliation.

  • Marcin Rey

    I am Polish. I truly love Ukraine and I really believe there is no free Poland without free Ukraine. Instead of taking a nice summer vacation, I have spent the last couple of months sitting at my computer and fighting in the information war, while wondering if I was not a coward cheating himself from just going and taking part to the true war somewhere in the Donbas. But I am not that young any more and I have a family.

    I have been fighting hundreds of people telling me in comments that we in Poland shouldn’t support Ukraine because Ukraine will never recognize the crimes of OUN-UPA. I was always answering that on the contrary, we have to support Ukraine as strongly as possible, and mutual reconciliation would come.

    Today I have been proved wrong both by President Poroshenko and Euromaidan Press. I have been invited to contribute to this page some time ago and was happy to help. However, this publication is one too far. I quit. There are limits to compromise. I can support Ukraine, but not to the point of betraying the memory of my own people that have been ruthlessly slaughtered in the ethnic cleansing in Volyn and Galicia – including my own relatives.

    Putin would be more than happy to read this thread. He has been trying very hard to revive hatred between Ukrainians and Polish. Who suggested President Poroshenko to say that just right know, as Poland was beginning to get very serious about providing weapons to Ukraine?

    • Dmytro Yasrachnyk

      Much the same could be said of Polish insurgents who killed Ukrainians- if you look backj historically Ukrainians were overwhelmingly victims rather than perpetrators. I am sorry but get over it.

      • http://euromaidanpress.com Mat

        While 45-60,000 Polish civilians were killed, 41,000 Ukrainians were killed by Poles in equal fashion. This was a civil war, and a brutal one, but if one side wants to pretend they weren’t involved, or if they want to tell Ukraine who they can and can’t heroize, then reconciliation is impossible and self defeating.

        When Ukrainians venerate the UPA, they do it for a decade of fighting Russia and fighting for freedom. Period.

        • Marek

          No Mat, there is no period here. I could have written Marcin Rey’s post myself. I have supported the brave fight of free Ukraine strongly but now I am left speechless by this article and by President Poroshenko’s actions. The false numbers you cite are a silly attempt of equalizing crimes of unequal magnitude. You can be a patriot and still acknowledge that in the name of your country crimes were committed. Especially if we are talking about unimaginably brutal slaughters that was committed by the UPA in Volyn who killed mostly women and children. Make an effort, be honest, read some decent literature even if it will be painful for you. Poles did much more to face their own skeletons in their closets, even including the infamous but childishly mild comparing to the UPA slaughters Action Vistula. It seems that many Ukrainians still have this sad homework to do.

          • http://euromaidanpress.com Mat

            False numbers? I’m citing well known, respected western historians. Calling the number of Ukrainian deaths “silly” just shows the mentality you’re coming from. To call Vistula “childishly mild” is downright disgusting.

            Poles in Kholm slaughtered mostly women and children as well, as was the case in many other villages that were razed in punitive actions whereby Poles collaborated with Nazis and Soviets. As much as you’d like to deny that the crimes were of equal magnitude, you’re the one denying the reality, and skipping homework, to better sleep at night, not me.

        • Tomasz Romanowski

          Three things to keep in mind when mentioning Polish crimes against Ukrainians at that time. First, The Poles began to retaliate against the Ukrainians in order to avoid a complete annihilation. What were you thinking, we were just going to sit and wait to be slaughtered like lambs? We waited way too long anyway. Secondly, the number of murdered Poles vastly outnumbers the number of murdered Ukrainians. Finally Operation Vistula was carried out not by the Polish sovereign state but by the soviet-controlled and soviet-imposed communist government.

          • http://euromaidanpress.com Mat

            “In order to avoid annihilation, we had to kill women and children, especially in areas where the UPA didn’t exist” – is that what you’re saying? You’re justifying crimes against humanity, even saying Poles “waited too long” to do it! That’s disgusting.

            The number is not vastly different, 60k is not vastly higher than 40k.

            Don’t blaming the Soviets for willing collaboration, many Poles, including Home Army, collaborated with the Communist Polish Army.

  • pieta

    I just really hope, that Ukrainians will one day understand that those heroes mass slaughtered innocent children and women. I understand, that they need heroes, but “Heavenly Hundread” and ATO soliders shouldn’t be put in one line with those UPA scums. They have as little honour as Donbas merconary and russian chechens.

    • http://euromaidanpress.com Mat

      Poland sees the AK (Home Army) as heroes, Ukraine and Russia see the Red Army as heroes, how is this any different?

      • pieta

        Yes they are:
        1. AK fought through entire war against both Germans and Soviets.
        2. Only a fraction of AK was involved into retaliation genocide (guess who started all this mess), while all UPA carried genocide
        3. AK had a special department dedicated solely to hunt people involved in deenouncing the jews. UPA was helping nazis.
        4. UPA attacked only polish, while leaving safe russians. Attacked only on pre-wwII polish lands.
        5. Poland aknowledge genocides of ukanians and apologized. Polish kids learn about it in schools. And Ukraine is still in denial.

        • http://euromaidanpress.com Mat

          1. So did the UPA
          2. Only a fraction of the UPA was involved in 1943’s events in Volyn, which was no “genocide” by any means. It was started by Poles, technically, but this is a chicken and egg argument and the answer is useless. First blood doesn’t justify what happened.
          3. UPA was not helping Nazis, that’s fantasy. Many Poles collaborated with the Nazis, however, and in revenge to Ukrainians joined the Nazis.
          4. UPA did not attack only Polish, but also Ukrainians and anyone else who opposed them – it was highly political, less ethnic in overall scope.
          5. Both sides acknowledged and made amends, how is Ukraine in denial? As long as the AK is heroized, it would be hypocritical to expect Ukraine to do the same to the UPA.

    • Murf

      Jesus, and who he heck didn’t in that war?

  • xyz

    Why not honour SS Galizien as well?
    Sure, they collaborated with Nazis and killed civilian population, but so did UPA.

    • http://euromaidanpress.com Mat

      UPA never collaborated with Nazis, and SS Galicia was found innocent of war crimes.

      However, the difference here is that the UPA fought for independent Ukraine, and the SSG, while fighting Communism, did not (and fought for another state altogether, which is the easiest answer why they arent Ukrainian veterans)

      • xyz

        Not sure if trolling…
        All SS units were found guilty of war crimes in Nuremberg:
        “It is impossible to single out any one portion of the SS which was not involved in […] criminal activities”
        SS-Galizien was involved for example in Huta Pieniacka massacre.

        • http://euromaidanpress.com Mat

          You should learn the history before commenting.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/14th_Waffen_Grenadier_Division_of_the_SS_(1st_Galician)#The_Desch.C3.AAnes_Commission

          “The Galicia Division (14. Waffen grenadier division der SS [gal. #1]) should not be indicted as a group. The members of Galicia Division were individually screened for security purposes before admission to Canada. Charges of war crimes of Galicia Division have never been substantiated, either in 1950 when they were first preferred, or in 1984 when they were renewed, or before this Commission. Further, in the absence of evidence of participation or knowledge of specific war crimes, mere membership in the Galicia Division is insufficient to justify prosecution.”

          • xyz

            That is statement of Canada (which BTW has huge pro-Ukrainian lobby). The statement of Nuremberg court is international law, therefore it is much more important.

  • http://euromaidanpress.com Mat

    Bandera was in a German prison, how did he “launch” a “genocide”? Please explain this one.

    • xyz

      He was allowed to contact with other member of OUN, that’s how could launch it.

      • http://euromaidanpress.com Mat

        …what? Let’s not start conspiracies.

  • http://euromaidanpress.com Mat

    1. First off, the define collaboration, because “hoping they wouldn’t kill us” is not collaboration. Second, the auxiliary police was multi ethnic, and made up mostly of Soviet POWs who didn’t have much of a choice (unless voluntary execution is a choice). The Aux Police didn’t carry out the Holocaust – that has already been proven by historians. Third, do you realize who replaced the Ukrainians who left to fight the Nazis? Poles. And Poles most certainly assisted in massacring thousands with the Nazis. All proven, sad history.

    2. Yes, that was indeed mass murder but not genocide – which has a very specific definition. The goal was not to kill all Poles everywhere, it was to ethnically cleanse the territory so Poland wouldn’t have claims to occupy it after the war; Poland made the same goal, to kill off Ukrainians so as to retain pre-WW2 borders. The Polish government in exile openly promoted an independent Ukraine…in areas where there were no Poles, which ended up legitimizing the action. Again, horrible, regrettable, but this is how it happened. (side note: and to debunk the genocide claim, UPA was also killing Ukrainians, thousands of them, making it much more diverse and political than textbook genocide). Considering Poles were doing much of the same, would you call it a genocide by Poles as well?

    2b. Poles were massacring Ukrainian villages as early as 1942, before the UPA started their end of this. They also did it under the belief that Poles were Nazi collaborators, killing Ukrainians (as the Nazis were doing this). When Poles did collaborate, and take part in killings in ‘revenge’, this legitimized the idea that Poles started it in the minds of Ukrainians, creating a deadly cycle. It should also be added that Russian NKVD and Nazis both dressed up as Ukrainians to convince Poles they were doing this, to provoke Poles to do the same. Again, deadly, vicious cycle, provoked by Russians and Germans to get both sides to wipe each other out.

    3. You’re going to have to prove such a statement.

    4. OUN’s ideology changed bi-monthly and was very lock step with other nations at the time; it’s disingenuous to talk ideology when it was popularized.

    5.

    – Voyn wasn’t a genocide, but it was ethnic cleansing. Find an historian who calls it genocide, because this isn’t a Ukrainian issue, it’s an issue you have with the academic community and anyone who studies this area too.

    – OUN was fascistic, but so was the USSR, so was Germany, so was Poland and numerous other bordering countries.

    – Ukrainians aren’t in denial of this, they get enough heat on this topic. They are an easy scapegoat for others to blame, too.

    – Falsification of history? Well, you just showed your hand as a conspiracist rather than someone who wants to engage in honest historical debate.

    If you’re going to demonize the UPA, demonize the AK as well. If you can’t come to terms with your own history, don’t impose on others how they should treat their own. It’s hypocritical.

  • http://euromaidanpress.com Mat

    1. I’ve addressed this in other comments – yes they did.

    2. Volyn was in the Ukrainian Republic until after the Polish-Ukrainian-Soviet War and remained occupied by Poland until WW2. Ukrainians lived under immense hardships and repressions under Polish rule in this time.

    3. UPA has nothing to do with the Wehrmacht, you’re just making that up now.

    4. History is tricky. Ukrainians in the Red Army killed many Ukrainians as well, and yet they get a parade every year. The point is to move past the killing and unite, not focus on who killed who or how many times.

    5. Ukrainians should learn about what happened to the Poles, but as it stands Ukrainians don’t learn about what the Poles did to Ukrainians, and don’t even learn about the millions of Ukrainians killed in the Holocaust. These are remnants from the Soviet system which covered all of these things up to exalt the “Great Patriotic War” and dismiss any ethnic-focused conflict that didn’t relate to the struggles of the “Soviet peoples”. Soviet history covered the entire Holocaust up, and made it a “war against Soviet…that also killed some Jews.” All of this needs major overhaul!

    It’s funny you say Ukraine should honor cossacks – do you realize how many Poles the Cossacks killed? Another example of moving past the killing and embracing the good (otherwise, you go insane and never get past the conflict, bilaterally, and internally)

    • Vlad Pufagtinenko

      Mat…you’re obviously a bright guy. Unfortunately you’re surrounded by Putin backside lickers…so ..as sound as your arguments are, these RT boys will never agree.

      • Gryzelda Wrr

        Vlad, they are not “Putin backside lickers”. They are your sincere and honest supporters, just as I am. But it happens that we share an extremely complicated history. It shouldn’t be discussed in a war time. I hope our historians will one day sit down with primary documents and write a common version of it. I think it’s going to be painful for both of us. For now, let’s mutually respect our sentiments. It’s not a right time to argue.

        Actually I think that the history is making an awful joke of Ukrainians now. Your inner situation resembles precisely Poland’s situation in years 1920-39. Numerous and powerful minorities vs. a weak, recently reborn state. In that times you were the victims, now you are claimed to be the oppressors.

        We cannot let the old animosities dominate our relations. Putin would be really happy, and making him happy is definitely not our goal.

  • Dmytro Yasrachnyk

    Perhaps the anti Ukrainian Polish commentators on this thread could explain to me-
    – Why they do not challenge Russia’s glorification of the Vlasov army which participated in quelling the Warsaw uprising (incidentally Putin’s father was involved here)?
    – Why the murder of some Ukrainian civilians by their partisans is excusable and no barrier to their veneration but the reverse does not apply?

    There is no logical answer. I respectfully submit:

    1) You are being played like a violin by a guy whose dad was up to his neck in Polish blood.
    2) He has been assisted in his aims by the “loss” of a substantial chunk of your leadership at the Smolensk air disaster – Katyn 2

    Fool me once…. I will be honest with you I am embarrassed by the arguments you present on this thread. I strongly suggest that you focus on dealing with Putin and lobby your government for a thorough investigation of Smolensk. If we look in the longer perspective at Ukrainian Polish casualties there have been a vast no of deaths on both sides- but also many intermarriages, much happiness. I do not go on threads dedicated to your partisans who were involved in brutal acts against my relatives and berate those who venerate them- I recognise the complexity of the time and that there were heroic fighters in those units. I ask you to show the same respect to Ukrainians and focus on your real enemy and not on a specious and intellectually untenable argument with your allies.

  • Dirk Smith

    And rightfully so. Ukrainians simply returning the favor, I guess.

    • xyz

      Let me say one thing: Poland doesn’t support Ukraine just because we hate Russians and love Ukrainians. Politics isn’t about that. It’s about mutual benefits. We don’t wan’t to be the last line of defence and border Soviet Union 2.0. But banderist Ukraine could be even worse option, than Putin’s Russia, and it IS NOT Polish interest. If you want to honor murderers – go ahead.
      But don’t count for our help.

  • Murf

    If it meant help fight the Soviets, I can see why they collaborated with the Germans. It was not like anyone else was going to help them.
    In shear numbers of people killed and lives shattered the Soviets were worse then the Naizs or the Mongloian hords.
    They believed in their people and freedom and were willing to fight for that belief. That is to be admired.
    Plus it pisses off Putin, so more the merrier.

  • http://euromaidanpress.com Mat

    1. If you want to change the definition, that’s your own game. I’m not playing it. Scholars have already given the verdict on this, and it’s not genocide.

    2. You can make up stuff all you want, I’m not here to play games. Your conspiracy about the “diaspora” “spreading lies” holds no water.

    3. Himka and Rudling are hacks, Kuzio even referred to them as pseudo-academics. Rudling is so far to the left and obvious in his mechanics that taking him at face value is just not a smart thing to do.

    4. Fed by lies by whom? My entire education on Ukrainian history is western based, from western historians. I didn’t even know who the UPA was until I was in university, after which I decided to read literally every thing in the English language on these events (including Himka and Rudling) to make my own well rounded conclusions. Accusations that I have been fed lies by “Ukrainian compatriots” is just gibberish.

    Here’s a link to an ongoing discussion on how much of a hack Rudling is:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Ukrainian_Insurgent_Army#Rudling_and_Romanovski

    • MichalRedel

      1. Which “scholars” exactly?

      2. It’s hardly a conspiracy, it’s a well known fact that Ukrainians like to whitewash OUN/UPA.

      3. ROFL. So Kuzio, a diaspora UKRAINIAN is the ultimate authority on who is legit? I’m sure you will find plenty other Ukrainians who will call anyone criticising OUN/UPA non-legit, but that hardly means anything.

      4. Funny how you’re speaking about western based education, but in the previous post you’ve mentioned Kuzio, who’s a diaspora UKRAINIAN. It’s quite obvious you aren’t too honest here.

      5. The “ongoing discussion” there is about Ukrainians attacking people who are criticising OUN/UPA.

      Really, your beliefs about it are out of touch with reality – more or less, you are in denial that Ukrainians are in denial about OUN/UPA.

  • bobthechef

    Calling UPA controversial is like calling Nazis controversial. UPA is not controversial, it is despicable. They COLLABORATED with the Nazis and committed crimes so heinous even the Nazis were horrified at their methods. They killed tens of thousands of Polish civilians in the most brutal ways, women and children, even pregnant women by slicing them open, removing the fetuses, and replacing them with cats before sewing them back up.

    Poroshenko is a disgusting representative of a disgusting people, a dangerous group of people that glorify brutality and unfit to rule themselves. They must be put under the boot of a less brutish power, though preferably not the Russians or the Germans. Perhaps the Americans can occupy them and keep them inline. They are a danger to Europe and must be neutralized.

    Also, Poroshenko’s income has gone up 7 times since the Maidan protests. An oligarch he is.