On February 18, the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) slammed the Lviv Regional Council’s move to appeal to the Cabinet of Ministers and the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) to grant legal status to the members of the SS Galicia Division that fought on the side of the Nazis during World War II. On February 16, the Lviv Regional Council decided to make such an appeal to the parliament to amend the Ukrainian law on the legal status and memory of fighters for the independence of Ukraine in the 20th century in order to recognize the status of the soldiers of “the first Ukrainian division of Galicia.”
The 14th SS-Volunteer Division “Galicia” was formed in 1943. Most of its members were from the Galician region in eastern Europe. In April 2015, the Ukrainian parliament officially recognized many erstwhile hyper-nationlist Ukrainian militias. But the 14th SS-Volunteer Division “Galicia” was not included in it.
The Communist Party of Ukraine pointed out that the bid to honor and rehabilitate the collaborators who served in the SS Galicia division and police units had begun following the fall of Soviet Union. According to KPU, a new impetus to this process was given following the 2014 Euromaidan protests in Ukraine.
“In Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk regions, they erect monuments and name streets in honor of the Nazi division. The documented facts of the division’s participation in the genocide of the Polish and Jewish population, in the massacres of civilians, are diligently ignored” added the KPU.
KPU has also recalled that it was only the United States and Ukraine that systematically voted in the UN against resolutions to combat the glorification of Nazism.
Neo-nazi groups and far-right vigilantes have been gaining strength and prominence in many former Soviet Republics and countries in East Europe over the past decades. In countries such as Ukraine and Poland, far-right, hyper nationalist groups are gaining traction and visibility with the covert and overt support of the state. Meanwhile, the right-wing regimes in this region are continuing an all-out attack on communists by banning communist parties, enacting de-communization laws, censoring communist publications and razing down communist and Soviet monuments. In 2019, a controversial European parliament resolution, which has equated communism with Nazism, also called for the erasure of all memorials of “totalitarianism” across Europe, including memorials dedicated to the Red Army.
In Ukraine, the persecution of communists started with the banning of the Communist Party of Ukraine in 2015, following the right-wing Euromaidan protests. In 2019, the pro-communist newspaper Rabochaya Gazeta (Worker’s Newspaper) was also banned.