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06KYIV4021, UKRAINE: WHO WERE THE FATHERLAND’S DEFENDERS? THE

October 18, 2006

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06KYIV4021 2006-10-18 10:23 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXRO2664
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHKV #4021/01 2911023
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 181023Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0064
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KYIV 004021 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/16/2016 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PARM ASEC UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: WHO WERE THE FATHERLAND'S DEFENDERS? THE 
UPA CONTROVERSY FLARES UP AGAIN AT POKROVA 
 
Classified By: DCM Sheila Gwaltney, reason 1.4 (b,d) 
 
1.  (SBU) Summary.  The Orthodox feast day of Pokrova 
(October 14), marked for centuries to honor defenders of the 
fatherland, occasioned three dueling marches in downtown Kyiv 
between elderly veterans of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army 
(UPA) and nationalist supporters on the one hand and 
Communists plus a wide range of pro-Russian and pan-Slavic 
forces on the other.  The most extreme groups, known to have 
Russian connections, announced beforehand they expected 
bloodshed and clashed with police in several early 
altercations, leading to dozens of temporary detentions.  The 
same groups also tried to manipulate press coverage 
afterwards, including posting doctored photos on the 
internet.  After a nasty 2005 Pokrova brawl between younger 
supporters of UPA and the Communists on the streets of Kyiv, 
however, Ukrainian authorities were ready and handled the 
situation much better this year -- a court ruling late 
October 13 prevented marches down Khreshchatyk, and thousands 
of police kept the three main groups far apart from each 
other.  For his part, Yushchenko signed a decree October 14 
to develop a comprehensive review of the participation of 
Ukrainians in World War II and other 20th century conflicts, 
to provide balanced information to Ukrainians, and to prepare 
a draft law on the social status of Ukrainian independence 
movement participants and to recognize organizations which 
fought for Ukrainian independence from the 1920s-1950s. 
 
2. (C) Comment: The controversy surrounding recognition of 
the UPA's role in fighting the Nazis in World War II and for 
an independent Ukraine has now spilled from the annual May 
8-9 "victory over fascism" commemorations into the marking of 
Pokrova, traditionally associated with the Cossacks but 
consciously used by the UPA's founders in 1942 to launch 
their movement.  In contrast to the May events, dominated by 
those nostalgic for the days of the Soviet Union and Stalin, 
the Pokrova marches saw the nationalist supporters on the 
streets of Kyiv outnumber the Communists and pro-Russian 
forces by a factor of at least two to one.  More significant 
is the fact that this overt Russian-affiliated intervention 
into internal Ukrainian politics, both in advocacy of a 
Ukrainian political force and via participation of a handful 
of Kremlin sponsored or tolerated fringe groups and NGOs, 
took place in Kyiv.  Although such groups have been active in 
Crimea since the Orange Revolution, their appearance and 
willingness to rumble in Kyiv was unusual, as was their use 
of digitally altered photos on the internet to sway 
perceptions of events in Ukraine.  However, the determination 
of Ukrainian authorities to act firmly, quickly, and properly 
prevented a potentially very nasty scenario from unfolding. 
Yushchenko's October 14 decree will keep the political 
controversy simmering; Communist leader Symonenko denounced 
it from the floor of the Rada October 17 and demanded its 
withdrawal.  End Summary and Comment. 
 
Marking Pokrova - with masses, marches, and court orders 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
 
3. (SBU) The Orthodox feast of Pokrova dates back to the 
earliest days of Kyivan Rus and was marked with particular 
reverence by the Cossacks, hearkening back to supposed 
appearances of the Virgin Mary over battlefields offering 
protection to the defenders of the fatherland.  Numerous 
special masses were held across Kyiv and Ukraine October 14; 
the main Kyiv Patriarchate Volodymyrski Cathedral, the usual 
church attended by the Yushchenko family, was as packed for 
the mid-day service as it is for the Easter Vigil, with many 
post-retirement age men in uniforms associated with the 
Cossack movement. 
 
4. (SBU) The Cossack "defender of the fatherland" legacy of 
Pokrova was used by the founders of the UPA in 1942 to launch 
their anti-Nazi insurgent efforts; UPA veterans and younger 
nationalist supporters traditionally mark Pokrova with 
commemorative marches.  Nationalists propose to move 
Ukrainian Army Day from February (a legacy of the Soviet 
Armed Forces Day celebration) to October 14, to bring it in 
line with Pokrova/Cossack traditions.  FM Tarasyuk, 
apparently in his capacity as party leader for Rukh, a 
nationalist party, used the occasion of Pokrova to repeat 
Yushchenko's calls to grant WWII veteran status to UPA 
fighters, an appeal supported by a wide range of Ukrainian 
nationalist parties. 
 
5. (SBU) In 2005, the first post-Orange Revolution Pokrova, 
authorities were caught off guard by street brawls between 
young supporters of UPA on the one hand and 
communist-affiliated marchers on the other.  After UPA 
veterans and Ukrainian nationalists initially received a 
permit for a Pokrova 2006 march on Kreshchatyk, Kyiv's main 
avenue traditionally used for military marches, both the 
 
KYIV 00004021  002 OF 003 
 
 
Communists and Pro-Russian Progressive Socialist leader 
Natalya Vitrenko announced countermarches aim
ed at preventing 
UPA/nationalists from marching down Khreshchatyk, in a replay 
of the May controversies over the status of the UPA and its 
claim to have defended the idea of an independent Ukraine by 
fighting the Nazis.  (Note: while the UPA did fight the 
Germans, many historians argue that its main opponent was the 
Polish Home Army and Polish citizens in western Ukraine, who 
were massacred by the tens of thousands; there were also 
concerns about anti-Semitic rhetoric and actions.  The UPA 
later fought the advancing Soviet Red Army, conducting 
guerrilla operations and assassinations of Soviet officials 
into the early 1950s, when resistance finally petered out, 
assisted by the deportation of 500,000 western Ukrainians to 
Siberia.) 
 
6. (SBU) Fearing more violence this year, Kyiv courts late on 
October 13 banned all Pokrova marches on Khreshchatyk. 
Interior Ministry officials negotiated through the night with 
various factions on revised zones of allowed movement,  The 
Government then deployed thousands of riot police and 
plain-clothes policemen early October 14 to prevent the main 
three groups from coming into contact with each other and to 
restrict the flow of non-marchers onto Khreshchatyk. 
 
A Hodge-Podge of Nationalist and pro-Soviet/Russian forces 
--------------------------------------------- ------------- 
 
7. (SBU) A total of at least 2000 Ukrainian nationalists 
(some estimates ranged between 3000-5000) rallied at various 
staging points in central Kyiv before convening in their 
revised authorized zone around Mikhailovsky and Sofiivsky 
Square.  Led by no more than a dozen UPA veterans, they laid 
flowers at the holodomor (1932-33 great famine) monument 
before rallying around the statue of 17th century Ukrainian 
leader Bohdan Khmelnytsky.  In addition to hundreds of blue 
and yellow Ukrainian flag and the red and black flag 
associated with Ukrainian nationalists, there were also the 
specific red and black flags of Ukrainian National 
Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense (UNA-UNSO) and the 
Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists (KUN), the blue flags of 
the Svoboda party and the yellow flags of Tryzub (Trident), 
another group claiming to be followers of Stepan Bandera. 
 
8. (SBU) Between 300-500 Communist party and affiliated 
supporters gathered on the edges of the Maidan (which itself 
was ringed by police) and the nearby Khreshchatyk sidewalks, 
listening to Soviet-era music.  Around noon Communist 
speakers made their way to the podium to denounce the UPA as 
fascist collaborators, denigrated Yushchenko for supporting 
UPA rights, and called for his impeachment.   Groups that 
affiliated themselves with the Communist march from the 
Pechersk Lavra Monastery (controlled by the Moscow 
Patriarchate) included: the "Rus" Union (whose flags 
dominated); the Union of Orthodox Citizens (led by Valeriy 
Kaurov); "United Motherland"; The "Orthodox Brotherhood"; the 
Russian Bloc party; and the Crimean branch of "Proryv" 
(Breakthrough), a radical "NGO" registered in Tiraspol, 
Transnistria, Moldova which attempted a symbolic "severing" 
of Crimea from Ukraine last January by digging a trench 
across the main road out of Crimea in front of Russian TV 
cameras. 
 
Vitrenko, Russian-sponsored troublemakers, the Crimea card 
--------------------------------------------- ------------- 
 
9. (SBU) The trouble-makers spoiling for a fight were 
associated with Natalya Vitrenko, whose party had issued a 
statement saying they were ready for bloodshed.  True to 
their promise, they sparked at least three early morning 
clashes with riot police.  At 1100, we saw riot police 
patting down a row of youth up against the wall; the 
camouflage-clad protesters had shaved heads, red bandannas 
over their faces, and waved the flag of the (Russian) 
National Bolshevik front (a black hammer and sickle in a 
white circle on a red field, evocative of the Nazi flag).  A 
plainclothes policeman told us later that Vitrenko's 
supporters had been armed in their clashes.  Interior 
Minister Lutsenko in his news conference from Lviv later in 
the day stated that Progressive Socialist activists had tried 
to use tear gas against the police.  Police detained 65 
protesters, nearly all from Vitrenko Progressive Socialist 
Party and the Eurasian Youth Union (EYU), releasing them 
after writing up protocols of violations. 
 
10. (C) Speaking on a bullhorn in front of Bessarabsky Market 
(the opposite end of Khreshchatyk from the Maidan), a Russian 
who did not identify himself before speaking but who could 
have been Rodina leader Dmitry Rogozin extolled the eternal 
union of the Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian Slavic 
brothers and urged everyone to vote for Natalya Vitrenko in 
 
KYIV 00004021  003 OF 003 
 
 
the next elections (note: the speaker said that he had come 
from Moscow for only one day. Rogozin appeared the night 
before on ICTV's "Svoboda Slova" (Freedom of Speech) talk 
show to defend his views that the breakup of the Soviet Union 
was a mistake.  When asked later October 14 by Fifth Channel 
reporters whether he had participated in Vitrenko's protests 
that morning, Rogozin declined to comment rather than denying 
he had been involved.  The EYU website showed a picture of 
its Moscow leader Vladimir Nikitin fighting with police, but 
that makes it unlikely Nikitin would have been free to make 
comments later). 
 
11. (SBU) For her part, Vitrenko, focusing primarily on 
Crimea-related issues, incited racial hatred of Crimean 
Tatars on behalf of the Slavic inhabitants of Crimea, warned 
of the NATO threat to Crimea as indicated by this spring's 
Feodosia events around the Sea Breeze exercise, denounced 
NATO, UPA "Banderivtsi," and fascists together in one breath 
and "American lackeys" Yushchenko and Yanukovych in another, 
and gave thanks that Russian President Putin and the Duma 
were defending true Slavic interests.  There were dozens of 
people who had traveled from Crimea for the march, carrying 
an assortment of hand-lettered signs referring to Sevastopol 
and other Crimea-related isseus.  In addition to the 
Progressive Socialist flags, those marching with Vitrenko 
waved the Russian tricolor, the National Bolshevik Front 
standard, and dozens of Eurasian Movement flags, both the 
yellow/black of the Eurasian Youth Union (EYU) and the 
Green/white of the "International Eurasian Movement." 
 
12. (SBU) Note: the websites of the EYU and certain Russian 
news agencies (Novy Region, Rosbalt) devoted heavy coverage 
to the October 14 Kyiv events, claiming that Ukrainian 
authorities used armed force to prevent an anti-fascist rally 
and tortured EYU detainees and, in the case of Novy Region 
(which has a Crimean branch), digitally manipulating at least 
one photo from the barricades to claim Ukrainian authorities 
had used excessive force regardless of the age and gender of 
protesters.  While Proryv marched with the Communists October 
14, they are
usually at the vanguard of radical action.  On 
October 9, Nadiya Polyakova, Proryv coordinator in 
Simferopol, Crimea, told a press conference that branches in 
Crimea, Transnistria, Abhazia, and South Ossetia had formed 
the Proryv International Youth Front to provide mutual 
assistance and support an agreement signed by the 
"presidents" of the unrecognized "republics." 
 
Yushchenko makes another run at righting history 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
 
13. (SBU) For his part, Yushchenko signed a Presidential 
Decree October 14 on the "all-sided study and objective 
coverage of the Ukrainian Independence Movement and 
facilitation of the national reconciliation process."  The 
decree tasks the Cabinet of Ministers and the Academy of 
Sciences to develop a comprehensive review of the 
participation of Ukrainians in World War II and other 20th 
century conflicts, to provide balanced information to 
Ukrainian society, and to prepare a draft law on the social 
status of Ukrainian independence movement participants from 
the 1920s-1950s and on recognizing organizations which fought 
for Ukrainian independence from the 1920s-1950s. 
Yushchenko's initial efforts in May 2005 to foster a 
reconciliation between UPA vets and Red Army/Red Partisan 
vets in time for the 60th anniversary of V-E day failed in 
the face of sustained opposition, particularly from 
communists and Red Army veterans.  His decree expands the 
historical framework of review considerably (covering both 
the 1920s and 1930s); with Communist leader Symonenko's 
October 17 salvo likely only the beginning, the historical 
controversy over UPA and other Ukrainians who struggled 
against Soviet rule in the name of an independent Ukraine 
will continue to simmer. 
 
14. (U) Visit Embassy Kiev's classified website at: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev. 
Taylor

Wikileaks

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