UKRAINE BANS SOVIET-ERA SYMBOLS

Wall Street Journal on April 9, 2015, reported that the Ukrainian parliament voted to ban Soviet as well as Nazi symbols here, a move that reinforced Ukraine’s recent pivot away from Moscow…Excerpts below:

Lawmakers voted 254-0 in favor of the bill, which outlawed any “public rejection of the criminal nature” of the Soviet or Nazi regimes in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that was overrun by the Germans in World War II.

It also prohibited flags, symbols, imagery, anthems and street or city names affiliated with the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany, according to a version of the text posted on the parliament’s website.

“Symbols including five-pointed stars and hammers and sickles will disappear from the streets of Ukrainian cities,” said Yuriy Lutsenko, a senior lawmaker in PresidentPetro Poroshenko’s party, referring to the Soviet Union’s quintessential iconography.

“This is equivalent to the swastika,” he said. “Symbols of those who tortured Ukraine will no longer be used, and offenders will be held to account.”

The bill’s passage came shortly after the president visited a mass gravesite for the victims of Soviet repression on the outskirts of Kiev on April 9.

These “graves are an echo of the black September of 1939, when Hitler and Stalin together unleashed the bloody Second World War and attempted to divide Europe,” Mr. Poroshenko said, provoking further controversy by equating the two leaders.

In another move sure to rankle Russia, a draft of Kiev’s new national security strategy, released on April 9, raised again the prospect of Ukraine joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The legislation represented a dramatic act of defiance against Russia, where PresidentVladimir Putin has praised Soviet history as a way to restore wounded national pride and reinstated Soviet traditions, including the annual May 9 parade of weaponry on Red Square.

But many nationalist-leaning Ukrainians see the need to reject Soviet history forcefully to escape Moscow’s dominance, looking to follow in the footsteps of former communist countries in central and eastern Europe.

Mr. Lutsenko said the new law didn’t apply to memorials at cemeteries or Soviet-era awards given to war veterans and heroes of labor.

In the past year, dozens of videos have surfaced showing Ukrainians toppling local statues of Vladimir Lenin across the country, seen as a message of defiance against Moscow.

A separate law passed by the Ukrainian parliament on April 9 will permit public access to documents classified as secret by Soviet authorities.

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