Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko announced this week that he had approved medals of commendation for members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), despite their cooperation with the Nazi regime during World War II.
Yushchenko had been under pressure by the group to recognize its veterans as "fighters for the independence of the Ukraine".
The president announced the move at a memorial for members of a Ukrainian organization that fought against the Bolshevik army in 1918.
"I have signed an order to honor all those who participated in the battle for the Ukraine's independence in the 20th century," he said.
Among the men to receive the medal will be Stepan Bandera, who led the younger and more radical members of the OUN. Bandera, who is no longer among the living, helped the Nazis to kill Jews hiding in Galicia, then a district of Poland.
In October 2009 Yushchenko honored the commander of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), Roman Shukhevych, who also participated in the slaying of Jews during the war. The president said his government would soon award the leaders of the various groups official status.
Yushchenko's controversial decisions have engendered rage among the Ukrainian public, as well as that of the international community, and the Wiesenthal Institute has been one of his major critics.
The institute has defined the decision as "tragic", especially as it was made just a few days after International Holocaust Remembrance Day.