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Wiesenthal Centre to President of Ukraine: "From Bandera and Shukhevych to Svoboda, these are Contemporary icons for the fans who bring Hate and Violence to Ukrainian Football."

Paris, 18 October 2013

In a letter to Ukrainian President, H.E. Mr. Viktor Yanukovich, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, noted his participation this week, in an international conference on antisemitism to mark the centenary of the Mendel Beilis trial in Kyiv, held under the auspices of the current Ukrainian Chairman-in-Office of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Samuels drew attention to the local English language Kyiv Weekly, in which an editorial on racism in football states, "Ukrainophobes...actively undermine the country by publicly associating former symbols of the Ukrainian nationalist struggle with fascism"

- an article in the same weekly entitled, " 'In the Whirlpool of Media Wars', speaks of the accusation that "Lviv fans [are] using neo-Nazi symbols, making Nazi salutations and some manifestations of racism expressed in 'sounds and gestures' as launched by 'pro-Russian media'".

- the article then mentions "a T-shirt with number 88 (interpreted as an encoded Heil Hitler!), the coat of arms of the 'Halytskiy Lion' which is an emblem of the SS Halychyna Division and several dozens of people allegedly putting up their arms in the classic Nazi salutation...There were many traditional, for Lviv, black flags of the OUN-UIA and portraits of leaders of the National Liberation movement of the 1930-50's, Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych. Perhaps these were the notorious 'neo-fasicsts symbols'?" 

- the article argues, "in regard to the Ukraine versus San Marino match, Ukrainian football officials could have, from time to time, informed FIFA that 'fascism' of Bandera and Shukhevych, which several years ago were official Heroes of Ukraine, is a very disputable historic issue," adding that it is no surprise 'Ukrainian football fascism' was again brought up on the eve of signing the association agreement with the EU".

- a second article in the same weekly, " 'FIFA and the Nuremberg Trial', claims that this is a "selective interpretation of history of the 'second echelon' of countries that participated in WWII", continuing, "the idea of collective responsibility [i.e. of fan's behaviour and their clubs] which FIFA applies, was effectively used by the German administrations of occupied territories in WWII".

Samuels suggested to the President that, "if this is the revisionism of the English-language Kyiv Weekly, one dreads the content in the Ukrainian general press".   Adding "for Jews and Poles, the OUN-UIA indisputably practised a policy of mass murder with the former as the principal target. The SS Halychyna Division was not a legitimate Ukrainian defence corps.  It was an executive of Nazi extermination.  Bandera and Shukhevych are not historic heroes.  They are the icons of the contemporary antisemitic, anti-Roma, anti-Pole and anti-Gay Svoboda (Freedom) Party now present in your Parliament.  Indeed, it is Svoboda's fans and retinue that bring hate and violence to Ukrainian football".

The Centre urged the President "to play a personal role in publicly supporting Holocaust education and the work of those agencies that combat hate on the football terraces, including FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe), Poland'sNever Again and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre".

"Our monitoring and the penalties imposed by FIFA and UEFA are the harsh measures necessary to ensure democracy from the incitement of its enemies.  They are also the indirect lessons and legacy of the Mendel Beilis trial", concluded Samuels.