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Yushchenko Defends Making Bandera, Shukhevych 'Heroes Of Ukraine'

Stepan Bandera
KYIV -- Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said he is concerned by talk of overturning his decrees awarding World War II-era nationalist leaders Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych the Hero of Ukraine Order, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Yushchenko spokeswoman Iryna Vannykova said in Kyiv that "politicians at the national level have begun some speculation around the 'national memory' that is provoking confrontation within society."

Vannykova said that Yushchenko believes presidential decrees cannot be canceled without the agreement of the Constitutional Court and, therefore, any debate about his decrees should end.

In the final weeks of his presidency in January, Yushchenko declared Bandera a Hero of Ukraine. Bandera -- who was assassinated in 1959 -- remains a controversial figure in Ukraine, where he is lauded as a hero in the western part of the country but considered a traitor by many in the eastern half, which is largely pro-Russian.

Shukhevych, who died in 1950, was made a Hero Of Ukraine by Yushchenko in 2007.

During talks with Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev earlier this month, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych reportedly pledged to look into revising Yushchenko's decision to give the Hero of Ukraine Order to Bandera and Shukhevych before the 65th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Germany on May 9, 1945.

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