Washington, DC. Trump and Poroshenko only met for 10 minutes yesterday, but hope is eternal amongst those of Ukrainian-Jewish ancestry that Trump will do something, do anything to reel in Poroshenko’s over the top support for Ukrainian Nazis and those saluting the past murders of Ukraine’s Jews.
For Ukraine, the Trump-Poroshenko meeting was a percieved win because Poroshenko got to visit the White House ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin. For Trump, it seems to have been a missed opportunity to reel in Poroshenko’s growing support for Nazi causes and groups in the Ukraine.
Trump should have spoken out against what many see as Ukraine’s troubling glorification of Nazi collaborators. Poroshenko presumably focused on Russia’s occupation of Crimea and support for freedom fighters in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region. Trump should have broadened the agenda to call out Kiev for its official state policy of honoring controversial figures from World War Two.
The latest example: local authorities in the capital recentlyvoted to rename a major street after a former Nazi collaborator and anti-Semite named Roman Shukhevych.
Shukhevych led the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), an organization responsible for the mass slaughter of Poles and Jews during the war. Even inside Ukraine the renaming is a disputed move, with hundreds of people taking to the streets last Friday to protest the decision,only to be attacked by an ultra-nationalist neo-Nazi group.
In 2015, Ukraine passed a law honoring the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and its military wing, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, (OUN-UPA). Since then, other streets have been named after the group and its leaders, and Ukraine’s military is rampant with vast numbers of Nazis.
American organizations like the United States Holocaust Museum and the Simon Wiesenthal Center have joined Ukrainian Jewish groups in criticizing Ukraine’s decision to salute the Nazis. Wiesenthal Center head Efraim Zuroff said that honoring the collaborators “turns Hitler’s henchmen into heroes”; Ukraine’s Chief Rabbi called Kiev’s decision to name a street after Shukhevych “immoral propaganda.”
Salutes to Nazis in Ukraine has been accompanied by a growing number of anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine. Numerous Holocaust memorial sites – including Babi Yar, where over 33,000 Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis – have been vandalized or desecrated by anti-Semitic graffiti and swastikas.
Ukrainian officials are also guilty of a number of recent anti-Semitic outbursts. A retired general affiliated with Ukraine’s security services called for the destruction of the country’s Jews, a member of Parliament advocates use of slurs like Zhid or Kike, and the Ukrainian military openly march under Nazi flags, wearing SS insignia.