Levitsky quoted in IBT article, shares insight on controversial Ukrainian bill

April 13, 2015

Mel Levitsky was quoted in an International Business Times story, “Ukraine’s Controversial Bill Recognizing WWII-Era Partisans Draws Harsh Criticism From Russians,” about a contentious Ukrainian bill passed in parliament last week. The bill, led by President Petro Poroshenko's bloc, recognizes controversial World War II-era partisan groups as freedom fighters. 

“The groups are revered by some in Ukraine because they defended ethnic Ukrainians in the chaos of World War II, but many pro-Russian Ukrainians consider them terrorists who willingly collaborated with Nazi Germany to fight the Soviet Union,” wrote reporter Dennis Lynch.

Levitsky, who spent time as a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow during his 35-year career as a diplomat, shared insight into the controversy. “Anything that enhances the reputation of these groups, from which most of Ukraine’s modern nationalist groups have sought inspiration, just gives greater weight to the Russian argument that [the Ukrainian government] is a bunch of Nazis, terrorists or what have you,” he is quoted as saying.

Levitsky, who contends it wasn’t necessary for the partisan groups to be officially recognized, also said that considering hostilities between Russia and Ukraine are at their lowest levels since last March, the timing of the bill is questionable.

“Are they poking the Russian bear in the eyes a little bit? Maybe, is it an effort to breed some Ukrainian nationalism? To me, it doesn’t make sense to put it out in such a visible way.”

Mel Levitsky is a professor of international policy and practice at the Ford School of Public Policy, as well as a faculty associate of the Center for Russian and East European Studies (CREES). During his 35-year career as a diplomat, Levitsky served as U.S. ambassador to Brazil (1994-98) and also held such senior positions as executive secretary of the State Department, ambassador to Bulgaria, and deputy assistant secretary of state for human rights. Earlier in his career, Levitsky was a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and a consul at the U.S. consulates in Belem, Brazil and Frankfurt, Germany.