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Yanukovych to strip nationalists of hero status

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March 5, 2010, 7:09 p.m. | Ukraine — by Reuters

Reuters

MOSCOW, March 5 (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych said on Friday he would reverse a decision by his predecessor to honour two controversial nationalists as "Heroes of Ukraine," a title angrily rejected by Moscow and Brussels. Pro-Western ex-president Victor Yushchenko issued a decree in January conferring the honour on Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist forces (OUN) which fought against Nazi invaders and Soviet forces during World War Two and after.

Yushchenko had earlier awarded the title to Roman Shukhevych, Bandera's right hand.

The decrees unnerved Ukraine's giant neighbour and former imperial master Russia and further underscored its distaste for Yushchenko, who pushed his nation towards NATO and sought to shed Moscow's influence.

The European Parliament in February said in a motion that it deeply deplored the award and called on the new leadership to reverse it.

"Of course, these decrees by Yushchenko have produced a resounding effect, and they are not accepted in both Ukraine and Europe," Yanukovich, elected in a Feb. 7 run-off election, told a news conference during a visit to Russia.

"This decision (to repeal the decrees) will be taken before Victory Day," he said.

Most ex-Soviet states still celebrate the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany on May 9, which marks the end of the 1941-45 war known as the Great Patriotic War.

Yushchenko's glorification of Ukrainian nationalists also incensed neighbouring EU member Poland.

Much of western Ukraine was Polish territory before the war. Poles blame Bandera for massacres of some 100,000 people, many of them women and children, during his campaign to carve out an independent Ukraine at Poland's expense.
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