The Donetsk regional court has overturned a decree posthumously awarding the nation's highest award to a nationalist leader whose insurgent army supported Nazi Germany for part of World War II.

The court ruled Friday that former President Viktor Yushchenko's decree bestowing the Hero of Ukraine award on Stepan Bandera was illegal, as Bandera was never a citizen of Ukraine (as he died before 1991). The appeal was submitted by Donetsk lawyer Volodymyr Olentsevych.

Olentsevych also appealed against Yushchneko's decision to award Roman Shukhevych with the Hero of Ukraine award giving the same argument as in the case with Bandera - not a citizen of Ukraine.

Bandera was a leader of Ukraine's nationalist movement, which included an insurgent army that for one period sided with the Nazis.

Yushchenko issued the decree weeks before his term ended in February. He called Bandera patriot, but the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish rights group, said Bandera's followers were linked to the deaths of thousands of Jews.

The Our Ukraine party intends to appeal against the Donetsk District Administrative Court's decision to cancel the presidential decree that conferred the Hero of Ukraine award on Stepan Bandera, who was the leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) during the period of 1930-1950.

The press service of the Our Ukraine party announced this in a statement.

"The Donetsk District Administrative Court made a political decision that has little to do with the law. It will be appealed accordingly," said Iryna Vannikova, the spokeswoman for the Our Ukraine party's leader Viktor Yuschenko.

According to Vannikova, the arguments of the plaintiff and the court's decision seemed far-fetched and built on political instructions.

"The hurried 'cancellation' of this decree through a district administrative court demonstrates only an attempt by irresponsible politicians to speculate on the issue of Ukrainian history, but it will not result in Stepan Bandera being stripped of the Hero of Ukraine award," Vannikova said.

Vannikova also expressed regret that such a decision was made on the eve of Easter and described it as a political and, consequently, unjust decision.


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