Lukashenko on the Khatyn massacre and other crimes of the UPA in Belarus during the war
There were more than a hundred Ukrainian punitive battalions in Belarus and not a single Belarusian.
Fighting is only permissible against an armed enemy. The killing of civilians—this is a crime that has no statute of limitations. Documents of the UNA-UNSO, of the UPA [the Ukrainian Insurgent Army ―trans.], expressly refer to the need to kill civilians of other nationalities—Poles, Russians, Jews—in order to gain independence. They also say so of the Belarusians, the ones in Polesye [a historic region which straddles the present Belarus-Ukraine border ―ed.]. This is fascism.
Stalin’s representatives did not submit material regarding the UPA’s crimes to the Nuremberg Tribunal, given that western Ukraine and Transcarpathia became part of the USSR and the UPA crimes fell under domestic criminal jurisdiction of the USSR rather than under international jurisdiction. Perhaps it was a mistake by Stalin, but not a substantial one. The USSR used its jurisdiction to the fullest extent in prosecuting the UPA. The UPA was considered a terrorist organization under USSR law, and therefore a major part of it hastened, after its defeat, to take refuge in the United States and in Canada. The fact that the UPA committed crimes against innocent unarmed civilians— women, the elderly, children—has been proven repeatedly.
The ideology of the UPA is based on ethnic hatred and persecution on ethnic grounds, which is a violation of international legal norms. Adopting a misanthropic ideology, currently implementing it during a coup in Ukraine, including, for example, the burning of civilians in Odessa—this proves in fact its criminal, fascist basis. Don’t worry, I know who bankrolled and organized this new Odessan Khatyn [Khatyn was a village in Belarus, where Ukrainian SS auxiliaries drove the inhabitants into a barn and burned them alive, machine-gunning whoever attempted to escape. ―ed.]. Whenever will be the new Nuremberg is not so important. What is important is that sooner or later there will be one, make no mistake. And crimes against humanity do not fall under any amnesty.
As for the Russians, you better not touch them: Gil-Rodionov’s Druzhina Brigade [the “1st SS Russian National Brigade”, a Russian unit organized by the Germans on the territory of Belarus. Its commander, Gil-Rodionov, organized a mass re-defection of his unit of 2,500 men back to the USSR in 1943. The unit was renamed the “1st Anti-Fascist Partisan Brigade”. Gil-Rodionov was awarded the Order of the Red Star in 1943 for organizing the re-defection. He died in action in 1944. ―ed.] did not touch civilians, in contrast to the atrocities committed by “rebels” of the more than a hundred Ukrainian volunteer battalions operating in Belarus, whom locals called “Banderites”. As for the Russians, even the army of Kamensky was named after Narodniks. And the Volyn region is mentioned completely without conscience—the region where the Volyn massacre of women and children took place.
- Testimony of a former soldier, G. Spivak, of the SS Battalion 118 [a battalion of Ukrainian “Hilfspolizei” ―ed.]:
“I was in a prisoner of war camp in Kiev. It was autumn, already cold, they began recruiting us. Nationalists arrived who had already been trained somewhere, they began to organize the security battalion. I was given a rifle and dressed in a green German uniform. I fell in with Battalion 118, which had Vasyura as chief of staff. My platoon commander was Pasichnyk, the company commander—Vinnitskiy, a former officer. We were sent to Belarus to fight the partisans… Generally, our 1st company was the most brutal and loyal to the Germans. Most, if not all, were nationalists from western Ukraine. Meleshko’s platoon was especially impactful.”
The officers of these Sonderkommandos completed special training in Germany. They swore the oath of allegiance to the Führer in November 1942, and in December the battalion relocated to Pleshchenitsy, near Minsk.
2. Vasyura’s first vacation was received for Khatyn. But even before March 22, Battalion 118 had burned fifty-eight houses in the village of Chmelevichi in Logoisk district (three civilians killed), after which they burnt forty houses in the villages of Koteli and Zarechie (sixteen killed). Khatyn was doomed.
3. Battalion 118 continued its bloody course. In the course of Operations “Herman” and “Cottbus” in May, forty households in the village of Vileyka were burned. Seventeen children and seven women were herded into a barn and burned. The next day, after interrogation and torture, the same fate befell all the men. Then the village of Osovy was burned (killing more than fifty people) and Nivki village of Vitebsk region (ninety households). [Osovy is in Vitebsk Region, but Nivki is in fact in Minsk Region. The two villages are a handful of kilometres away from each other ―ed.]
4. During Operation “Cottbus” fifty Jews were executed near the village of Kaminska Sloboda.
5. The 118th Security Police Battalion was formed in July 1942 in Kiev and based on of one of the companies of the 115the Security Police Battalion. About a hundred people were taken from the 115th Battalion in order to form the 118th Battalion.
6. The 115th Security Police Battalion was formed in early 1942 in Kiev from part of the disbanded Bukovina Kuren [a paramilitary unit made up from soldiers of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists, OUN ―ed.]. Since there was a large number of Galitsian and Bukovina volunteers in Kiev who had nothing to do after the disbandment of Ukrainian units, a hundred were allocated from the 115th Battalion in order to create a new unit—the 118th Police Battalion. The battalions were created in accordance with the decision by Ukrainian Nazis to join their members in these battalions under German management after Hitler had banned the creation of independent Ukrainian armed formations.
7. The Bukovina Kuren—a paramilitary unit of the OUN(M) (supporters of A. Melnyk) was mainly formed of Ukrainians who came from Bukovina. The Kuren maintained close contacts with the German secret services. The founder and head of the Kuren battalion was Colonel Petro Voynovskiy. The Kuren was formed on August 2-3 1941, incorporating marching groups of the OUN.
8. The Bukovina Kuren was disbanded in late 1941 by the Germans on the orders of Hitler because its activity was at odds with German policy towards the eastern territories.
9. At the end of 1942, Battalion 118 was redeployed to Minsk, Belarus. From Minsk the battalion was transferred to Pleshchenitsy, seventeen kilometres distant from Khatyn.
Of all the civilians murdered and villages destroyed by the Nazis in Belarus, the biggest single incident was at Borki village in the Kirovsk district of Mogilev region. In one day, on June 15, 1942, the Dirlewanger troops killed and burned to death 1,843 people.
From the testimony of the former Dirlewanger brigade member, Feodosiya Filipovich Grabovski, a native of Grabovka village, Vinnitsa region:
“For this operation we left Chechevichi by cars and by motorbikes. I remember, it was no longer spring, the potatoes were in flower (…) Before leaving, Barchik said that we would go to Borki village in order to help the Germans as they had come under fire from partisans in the area of the village. Approximately three kilometres from the village of Borki on the Mogilev―Bobruisk highway, the cars and motorbikes stopped. At Barchik’s command the platoon of Anatoly Soldatenko and Dmitri Dobrynin, as well as some of the Germans and Ukrainians, unloaded. This same Barchik said that these platoons together with a group of Germans and Ukrainians should encircle the central village and the surrounding villages on the eastern and northern sides. The rest of our platoons as well as the German forces and part of Melnichenko’s company drove on along the highway (…)”
A few years after the war, at trial one of the executioners remembered how Dirlewanger and Barchik had interrogated people, mocked them, burned them alive, and shot them. Children were killed in front of their parents; parents were killed in front of their children. Their corpses were dumped into large potato pits; among them were some who still lived. They were covered with earth.