A video of a Ukrainian opposition lawmaker saluting Adolf Hitler made its way online this weekend, only days after his country’s President apologized for Ukrainian collaborators’ role in the Holocaust during a state visit to Israel.
In the video, Artyom Vitko, the former commander of the government backed Luhansk-1 Battalion and now a member of the Radical Party of Oleh Lyashko, can be seen sitting in the back of a car wearing camouflage fatigues and singing along to a song by a Russian neo-Nazi band extolling the virtues of the Nazi dictator.
“Adolf Hitler, together with us, Adolf Hitler, in each of us, and an eagle with iron wings will help us at the right time,” Vitko sang, saluting the camera with his water bottle as the car’s sound system blared “Heil Hitler.”
Vitko’s pro-Nazi sentiments emerged immediately on the heels of party leader Oleh Lyashko denunciation of President Petro Poroshenko for for his recent comments apologizing or Ukrainian complicity in the Holocaust.
Speaking before the Knesset last week, Poroshenko said that “we must remember the negative events in history, in which collaborators helped the Nazis with the Final Solution.”
“When Ukraine was established [in 1991], we asked for forgiveness, and I am doing it now, in the Knesset, before the children and grandchildren of the victims of the Holocaust… I am doing it before all citizens of Israel,” he added.
“This kind of humiliation of Ukrainians has not been recorded in our history yet. During a visit to Israel, President Poroshenko apologized for the ‘Ukrainian participation in the Holocaust,’” Lyashko posted on Facebook on Thursday.
“This is exactly situation if we would accuse Georgians and Jews in the Holodomor, appealing to the atrocities of Dzhugashvili, Beria, Kaganovich, etc,” he said, referring to a massive famine that resulted from the forced collectivization of farms in the Soviet Union during the 1930s.
The Holodomor, as it is known in Ukraine, killed millions and is seen by many in that country as a genocide on par with the Holocaust.
“The Knesset has not recognized the Holodomor as the genocide of the Ukrainian people. That is a goal for Ukrainian authorities visiting the Holy Land rather than belittling Ukrainians [and] proclaiming inferiority of his people on the international level,” Lyashko added.
Poroshenko’s comments were laudable and he “acted correctly and courageously when he spoke in the Knesset about the Holocaust the Jewish people endured on Ukrainian soil,” Colette Avital, chairwoman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, told the Jerusalem Post.
“Even though we are not surprised by the comments of the radical leader, Oleh Lyashenko, we are nonetheless shocked by the kind of strange and irrelevant comparisons he brings up and by his negation historical facts. By now even leaders like Mr. Lyashenko should understand that the tragedy which befell the Jewish people in Europe in general, in Ukraine in particular should be condemned by all, including by him.”
“I would say that this is the reason Poroshenko is President and not Lyashko. Lyashko is a populist only saying what he thinks people want to hear,” said Ukrainian Chief Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich.
The Jewish community, Bleich said, disagrees with the populist politician’s definition of humiliation, seeing disgrace as when “one cannot face up to history.”
“Pride is to look back, and learn from mistakes. No one accused the Ukrainian people of causing or creating the Holocaust. However, the fact is that there were Ukrainians who participated in the murder and persecution of Jews. They are worthy of condemnation.”