Ukrainian Nationalists March In Honor Of Controversial Insurgent Army Founder's Birthday

KIEV, Ukraine -- About 500 Ukrainian nationalists gathered on late Sunday to rally in Kiev in honor of a birthday of Stepan Bandera, one of founders of the WWII-era Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) that fought against the Soviet Red Army and Nazis.

Monument to Stepan Bandera.

Kiev law enforcement officials told RIA Novosti that supporters of the nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party and the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists organization were marching from a monument to Ukrainian poet and writer Taras Shevchenko to city's central street of Khreshchatyk.

Some demonstrators have torches along with portraits of Bandera and nationalist flags.

Special units of Kiev police have moved up to Khreshchatyk to cordon it off.

Before, during and after WWII, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and its militant wing, the UPA, fought for Ukrainian independence first from Poland and then from Nazi Germany after it became apparent that Germany had no plans of giving the Ukrainians sovereignty.

However, later the organization rejoined German efforts to fight against a common enemy, the Soviet Union.

Ukrainian society is deeply divided over the wartime role of the country's nationalists, namely the UPA.

One part, mostly residents of the eastern regions bordering Russia, believe UPA fighters were traitors who killed Soviet soldiers, while another, mainly residents of western Ukraine, regard them as patriots who fought for an independent Ukraine.

Source: RIA Novosti