Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has signed a bill granting veteran status to retired combatants from nationalist, paramilitary formations that were active in Ukraine throughout the mid-twentieth century.

The bill was passed by the Ukrainian parliament on Dec. 6 and amends the country’s legislation on veteran care, guaranteeing all appropriate social benefits and privileges to members of a number of organizations, including:

  • Ukrainian Insurgency Army (UPA), led by Stepan Bandera, active in 1942-1956
  • Ukrainian Insurgency Army “The Polissia Sich”, led by Taras Bulba-Borovets, active in 1941-1944, transformed into the Ukrainian People’s Revolutionary Army in 1943
  • Armed formations of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), active in late 1920s-1950s.

All of them will lawfully receive veteran status three months after the bill’s publication, equally with former Ukrainian combatants of the Soviet Red Army and security forces of the time who fought against Nazi Germany from 1941 until 1945.

The bill states that all of them shall be recognized as “fighters for independence of Ukraine in the 20th century” who were fighting against both the Nazi and Soviet regimes.


However, the history of their efforts is marked with a number of controversies, such as the alleged, occasional cooperation with the Nazi regime, or involvement in bloody clashes with Polish groups in 1943-1945 in Western Ukraine, or the alleged mass murders of Jews in the same period.

According to the bill’s explanatory note, there were as many as 1201 such former fighters still alive, as of May. 23, 2018.

In compliance with legislation, they will get access to all veteran benefits that particularly include free passage on public transport, or subsidized medical services, monetary aid, and public utilities discounts.

Intensively demonized by Soviet propaganda for decades, the efforts of the Ukrainian, nationalist underground movements received wider acclaim in independent Ukraine, after 1991.

In the following years, there have been multiple attempts to provide these former fighters with official veteran status, especially during the administration of late President Viktor Yushenko in 2005-2009, but all of them ultimately failed.

Interest in the Ukrainian, nationalist underground movements of the 1940s-1950s greatly surged after the outbreak of Russia’s war against the country in 2014.


The legacy of such movements and other guerrilla forces has had a significant influence on the newly-emerging traditions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. A number of nationalistic volunteer battalions fighting against Russian forces in the Donbas up until today, such as the Right Sector, or its later offspring, the Ukrainian Volunteer Army led by Dmytro Yarosh, are inspired by such nationalist movements of the mid-twentieth century.

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