Ukraine nationalists march to honor wartime partisan leader

  • Activists of various nationalist parties carry torches during a rally in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022. The rally was organized to mark the birth anniversary of Stepan Bandera, founder of a rebel army that fought against the Soviet regime and who was assassinated in Germany in 1959. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

KYIV, Ukraine — Hundreds of Ukrainian nationalists held a torchlight march in the capital of Kyiv to mark the birthday of Stepan Bandera, the leader of a rebel militia that fought alongside Nazi soldiers in World War II.

The Sunday march came amid persistently high concerns over Russia’s massing of troops near the Ukrainian border, which many believe could be a prelude to an invasion. A large sector of eastern Ukraine has been under the control of Russia-backed separatist rebels since 2014.

“Today, when there is a war with the occupier at the front, and the struggle against the ‘fifth column’ continues in the rear, we remember and honor the memory of Stepan Bandera,” said Andriy Tarasenko, leader of the nationalist party Right Sector.

Bandera was the leader of a Ukrainian nationalist movement in the 1930s and 1940s, which included a rebel army that fought alongside the Nazis. Bandera’s supporters claim that they sided with the Nazis against the Soviet army in the belief that Adolf Hitler would grant independence to Ukraine.

Jewish groups associate Bandera’s followers with the massacre of Jews.

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