Thousands of far-right Ukrainian nationalists have taken to the streets in Kiev on the country’s Defenders and Defendresses Day, a public holiday, under the flags of the Azov and Right Sector extremist organizations, among others.
The march, which began in the city’s center, started at noon on Thursday and saw the participants walk through Kiev to Maidan, the capital’s main square.
The holiday, founded in 2015, is celebrated every year on October 14. A regular fixture of the festivities has been a march of Nazis through the center of Kiev. The date was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the founding of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, a Nazi collaboration group that fought against the Soviet Union during World War II. In recent years the group has been revered, despite its collaboration with occupying German forces, involvement in the Holocaust, and ethnic cleansing. The Ukrainian Insurgent Army was the paramilitary arm of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, led by ultranationalist collaborator and anti-semite Stepan Bandera.
Last year, the march saw banners decrying the country’s “occupation and robbery” by a “Jewish clan.”
Groups involved in the annual march include Svoboda, an ultranationalist political party, and National Corps, a group founded by veterans of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion. The extremist group Right Sector was also represented.
On Maidan square, the nationalists burned a clown effigy resembling Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, who is Jewish.
Nazi marches are not uncommon in Ukraine. Earlier this year, far-right nationalists staged a march in the center of the city to mark the 77th anniversary of WWII Nazi military division SS Galicia.
Created in Lvov in 1943, SS Galicia was made up predominantly of Ukrainian volunteers who wanted to take up arms for Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union and mainly fought against local partisans. The unit was almost wiped out in the 1944 Battle of Lvov–Sandomierz and later saw action in Slovakia and Austria. In 1945, it rebranded as the Ukrainian National Army and lasted until the end of the war in May that year.
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