Dozens of demonstrators were injured over the weekend in Kiev, Ukraine in violent protests against the decision of the city council to replace the name a main street to that of an officer who was one of organizers of an anti-Polish ethnic cleansing.
The street was named after General Nikolai Vatutin, who liberated Kiev from the Nazis, but now it was decided that it would be named after Roman Shukhevych, an SS officer responsible for the massacre of tens of thousands of Jews.
In October 2009, the Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko even gave Shukhevych the title of hero of Ukraine, even though he took part in an ethnic cleansing.
The decision was passed by the city council on June 1 with a majority of 69 out of 120.
The mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, did not support the decision but did not object to it either, even though his Jewish grandmother was one of those whom General Vatutin had liberated from the Nazis.
In the past two weeks, Klitschko has been under heavy pressure to veto the decision and not to change the name of the street, but so far he has refused to intervene. The decision is due to take effect in the coming days.
This move drew the ire of many of Kiev's citizens.
On social networks, it won the name "National Day of Shame." A few days ago, hundreds of people demonstrated in front of the statue of General Vatutin in the center of Kiev, standing above his grave, calling for the name of the street not to be changed. Most of the demonstrators were World War II veterans who shouted "shame."
On Saturday, violent demonstrations took place in Ukraine, in which 20 people were injured. Police arrested several rioters.
Edward Dolinsky, one of the leaders of the Jewish community in Ukraine, said: "Is it possible to measure the depth of a moral decline? It is not easy when there are cases where the decline is so deep that it cannot be measured.
A decision by the Kiev city council to change the name of the street in the name of General Vatutin to the name of a Nazi officer, whose hands are stained with the blood of tens of thousands of Ukrainians, Jews and Poles—is precisely a case of a moral decline, cynicism and contempt for humanity. This is a day of national shame. "
The Jewish community filed a petition with the Kiev Regional Court, which issued an interim injunction prohibiting the mayor from signing the order to change the name of the street until a final decision on the matter was made.
Alex Tantzer, a social activist among immigrants from the former Soviet Union, said: "For years, murderers of Jews have been titled as heroes. The Prime Minister of Ukraine is Jewish and he is silent. Mayor Klitschko, whose grandmother is Jewish, did not object, and even Israel is silent.
"I expect Israel to protest in the strongest possible terms against this decision.
"There is a limit to cynicism and moral decline. If Ukraine is looking for heroes, it should not find them among Nazi collaborators. The Ukrainian people are entitled to other heroes."
(Translated & edited by Lior Mor)