In an apparent response to the laws recently adopted by the Ukrainian parliament, banning propaganda and symbols of Nazi and Soviet regimes and recognizing the WWII Ukrainian Insurgent Army, among others, as Ukrainian freedom fighters, have sparked a response from a terrorist group which labels “Kharkiv Partisans”. Enraged by the provision in the former law for demolishing monuments to Soviet leaders, Phillip Ekozyants, the leader of the group responsible for numerous bombings in Kharkiv in the recent months, took to Youtube vowing to kill civilian Euromaidan supporters in response to any such demolitions in Kharkiv. Just a day after the Ukrainian Parliament adopted the law, masked unknowns had taken to implementing the law by dismantling statues to Soviet leaders, many of which went into history as killers and oppressors but were hailed by the Communist party for implementing the Soviet plan.
Western media have reported on the group’s terror activities, citing Ekozyants admitting his close ties to both the “separatist” authorities in Eastern Ukraine and Russian itself. This could potentially serve as grounds to define Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. While indiscriminate attacks on civilians and bombings targeting military installations may be labeled as forbidden ways of waging war, Ekozyants’ activities are unambiguously acts of terror targeting people for their political views.
It should be noted that Ekozyants’ warnings are built on a warped representation of the decommunization law, which explicitly excludes monuments to WWII Soviet soldiers from the list of demolition targets. Moreover, the memory of fighters against Nazism continues to be honored in Ukraine, as evidenced by Poroshenko’s recent address (in Russian) commemorating the anniversary of Soviet troops liberating Odesa from Nazi invaders. Poroshenko has also hailed he Ukrainian Insurgent Army, which was not a Nazi ally, despite what Russian propaganda could lead Ekozyants to believe. The memory of Soviet heroes, just like UPA freedom fighters, is not forgotten in Ukraine. A Russian historian has said that in adopting the decommunization laws, Ukraine shows it is “increasingly diverging from Russia.” Could it be that the Kharkiv terrorists just badly need a pretext to kill civilians whose views differ from theirs, like any terrorist might do?