Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Ukraine Unspun

Is Ukraine Canceling Victory Day? (No)

A World War II veteran wearing a Soviet officer uniform sings during a march in the center of Kyiv to celebrate  Victory Day on May 9 2013.
A World War II veteran wearing a Soviet officer uniform sings during a march in the center of Kyiv to celebrate Victory Day on May 9 2013.
The May 9 celebration of Victory Day may be Russia's most sacred holiday.

It celebrates the surrender of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union and is marked by large-scale military parades.

Throughout the former Soviet Union, crowds gather to honor soldiers for their part in defeating Nazi Germany.

WATCH: Victory Day celebrations 2013

But on Russian social networks yesterday, a rumor spread that the new government in Kyiv would be cancelling the event.
"Reports from Kyiv say that all preparations for celebrations of May 9 as a public holiday have been cancelled," wrote LiveJournal user Dima Kamayuga. "Any march to mark the day of victory over fascism in Kyiv will be banned by the new authorities and citizens and officials preparing these activities are receiving threats.

Kamayuga said he got his information from World War II veterans in Kyiv, who claimed they could be "shot in the head" for wearing Soviet medals of valor.

The Twitter account that appears to belong to Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Askyonov, picked up on the rumor.

"Nothing surprising about the fact that radical fascists have cancelled all celebrations of Victory Day in Kyiv. But veterans will still parade through Kyiv!" he said.
We could find no evidence for this claim.

In fact, on the same day the rumor was spreading online, the Ukrainian government's official website posted a statement congratulating veterans from the southern city of Kherson for the 70th anniversary of their victory over the "Nazi invaders."

"We must protect the peace so that our country never [again] knows the horror of war," said the statement, attributed to Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

All this is not to say that Victory Day is an uncontroversial topic in Ukraine. Many, particularly in western Ukraine, believe that the country fought a war on two fronts between 1939 and 1945 -- one against Soviet occupation and one against the Nazi advance.

The Soviet Union annexed western Ukrainian territories in 1939, following the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Moscow and Berlin.

-- RFE/RL's Russian Service and Glenn Kates
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About #UkraineUnspun

The information war is in full swing in the tense standoff between Ukraine and Russia. In an attempt to present a clearer picture, #UkraineUnspun will unravel information coming from Russian and Ukrainian media, politicians and activists. Written by Glenn Kates and contributors from RFE/RL.

Follow the hashtag #UkraineUnspun on Twitter and let us know what we should be covering -- or to weigh in on any of our stories. Or write us at webteam@rferl.org

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