The Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera, who was murdered in 1959, is controversial. Some researchers consider him a fascist. Ambassador Andriy Melnyk disagrees. In an interview, the diplomat defended Bandera against all criticism and called him a "freedom fighter".
Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk has denied that there is evidence of the mass murder of Jews by supporters of Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera. "Bandera was not a mass murderer of Jews and Poles," Melnyk said in a published video interview with journalist Tilo Jung. He would confirm that again and again. According to Melnyk, the character Banderas was deliberately demonized by the Soviet Union. He accused German, Polish and Israeli historians of having played along.
Melynk pointed out, among other things, that Bandera, whom he called a "freedom fighter", was arrested by the Germans just a week after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Born in 1909 in what was then Polish Galicia, Bandera fought for Ukrainian independence from the 1930s. After the Second World War he was murdered in Munich in 1959 by a Soviet agent.
"I'm against blaming all the crimes on Bandera," said the diplomat. Jung had previously confronted Melnyk with the number of victims and a quote from a Ukrainian leaflet. The leaflet, attributed to Bandera, reads: "Muscovites, Poles, Hungarians and Jews are your enemies, destroy them!"
"There is no evidence that Bandera troops murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews," Melnyk said with conviction. He also did not accept the accusation of collaboration with the Nazis. "What does collaborating mean? There were collaborators all over Europe - in France, in Belgium, in every country," Melnyk said of the cooperation between Ukrainian nationalists and Nazi Germany. Bandera only tried to exploit the struggle between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union for Ukrainian independence.
Bandera is controversial in Ukraine. Especially since the fall of the government in 2014, parts of the population have cultivated a cult around him and representatives of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), which he leads. In eastern Ukraine, on the other hand, he is mainly seen as a war criminal. Some researchers refer to Bandera as a fascist.
Bandera is considered to be largely responsible for the ideology of the radical wing of the OUN. Hundreds of streets have been named after Bandera and other OUN officials. Led by OUN members, the nationalist West Ukrainian partisans fought against Poles, Soviets and later the Germans during World War II. In 1943 Ukrainian units carried out ethnic cleansing in Volhynia. Tens of thousands of Polish civilians were murdered, some brutally.