Ukraine: Thousands march in support of controversial nationalist hero

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Thousands of people marched through the streets of Ukraine’s capital on the first day of the new year to mark the anniversary of a controversial nationalist hero.

Stepan Bandera is glorified by many in the west of the country as a mid 20th century freedom fighter, but the fact that he sided with the Nazis to fight the Communists alienates many in the east.

Bandera supporters explained why they regularly mark the anniversary of his birth.

“Every year since 2006, Svoboda marches on the 1st of January in memory of him and to spread his ideas. The ideas are very simple: to create an independent country, where Ukrainians will be the owners of their motherland,” said one.

“Nationalism has nothing to do with Nazism and even less with fascism. That’s why these marches were used as scare stories by the Soviet-era secret police,” added another.

Bandera was eventually assassinated in 1959 by the KGB in West Germany.

Although widely criticised, his far-right supporters see him as a rallying figure for today’s anti-government protests.

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