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Ukrainian General Condemns Russian Renaming Units After Ukrainian Cities

Chief of Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces Viktor Muzhenko gives an interview on a military plane in September 2017.

A top Ukrainian military officer has condemned an order by Russian President Vladimir Putin to name several Russian military units after cities and other places in Ukraine.

General Viktor Muzhenko's comments on July 3 were the latest in a growing number of critical responses to Putin's decree.

Putin's decrees gave a number of regiments and divisions in the Russian armed forces honorary names that hark back to World War II.

Putin's order was "a claim to the lands of other nations,” Muzhenko wrote on Facebook on July 3.

"With these decisions Russians continue their old tradition -- to steal others' history and glory. That is a clear signal to the world that the aggressor does not plan to limit itself with Donbas [eastern Ukraine] and Crimea," wrote Muzhenko, who is the chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces' General Staff.

According to the Kremlin, the renaming decrees are intended "to preserve glorious military and historic traditions, and to nurture loyalty to the fatherland and military duty among the military personnel."

The Soviet victory in World War II has always been a venerated holiday, including after the Soviet breakup, and Ukraine, like Russia, has honored its war veterans and victims.

But the Kremlin in recent years has embraced nostalgia of the war victory to a larger degree, using it in part to demonize Ukraine after the 2014 Euromaidan protests and to help justify the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula.

Under the decrees, the 933rd Missile Regiment is now called the Upper Dnieper Regiment, after the river in Ukraine. The 6th Tank Regiment is now called the Lvov Regiment and the 68th Tank Regiment the Zhitomir-Berlin Regiment and the 163rd Tank Regiment is called the Nezhin Regiment.

The decrees all use Russian spellings of the Ukrainian names, which in Ukrainian are Lviv, Zhytomyr, and Nizhyn.

In 1944, Stalin named the 93rd Tank Brigade after Zhytomyr for the city's role in World War II. The brigade was later reformed into the 68th Tank Regiment, then dissolved after the Soviet collapse. The regiment was reestablished last year, a development that caught the attention of military historians.

In addition, Russian Army regiments were renamed after the Belarusian cities of Vitsebsk, Kobryn, and Slonim as well as Warsaw, Berlin, and Romania's Transylvania region.

Russia's actions in Ukraine have also deepened concerns in Belarus, Poland, and other ex- Soviet and Soviet bloc countries about Moscow's intentions, and the moves have also badly damaged ties with the European Union and the United States.

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