Hundreds of people marched bearing torches in the capital city of Ukraine in an annual tribute to a leader who collaborated with Nazi Germany.
Israel’s ambassador condemned the torchlight march in Kyiv in memory of Stepan Bandera, issuing the strongest rebuke yet by an Israeli official of the event, which has grown in scope amid rising nationalism in Ukraine.
“We strongly condemn any glorification of collaborators with the Nazi regime. It is time for Ukraine to come to terms with its past,” Ambassador Joel Lion wrote on Twitter.
At the march, many participants waved banners carrying the symbol of the far-right Svoboda party, whose leaders have often made antisemitic comments, and banners reading: “Nationalism is our religion. Bandera is our prophet,” Pravda Ukraine reported.
During World War II, Bandera led the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, whose men killed thousands of Jews and Poles, including women and children, while fighting alongside Nazi Germany against the Red Army and communists.
Expressions of admiration for Bandera and other collaborators have increased in scope and status following the 2014 revolution in Ukraine, which toppled the regime of Viktor Yanukovych amid claims that he is a Russian stooge, and triggered an armed conflict with Russia.
In Lviv, Bandera’s birthplace, events celebrating him were also held and attended by many officials including Maxim Kozitsky, the head of the Lviv region. He and other officials laid wreaths on a monument for Bandera.