All it takes to create a Russian fake about something Ukrainian is one juicy quote taken out of context. The website Moskovskiy Komsomolets did just that in a recent news story claiming that Ukraine was ready to pack off the ashes of a World War II Soviet general through the post to his relatives in Russia. This tempest in a teapot began when Kyiv city council member Yuriy Syrotiuk posted on Facebook that the Soviet general’s remains either be sent to his family or reburied in a cemetery.
The general in question is Nikolai Vatutin, a World War II Soviet military commander responsible for many Red Army Operations in Ukraine. Vatutin led the First Ukrainian Front in its 1943 retaking of Ukraine’s capital from the Nazis. Vatutin was ambushed and wounded in 1944 by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. He died of his wounds in hospital and is buried in a central Kyiv park adjacent to the Ukrainian Parliament.
Moskovskiy Komsomolets claims that Kyiv city authorities are not satisfied with renaming Vatutin Prospect and want to remove all traces of the general from the city, dismantle his monument and his grave and send his remains to Russia through the mail.
Russia’s state Channel One station broadcast this fake story, Rossiyskaya gazeta, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Metro and others also disseminated it dutifully.
According to the Kyiv City Administration, there are no plans to dismantle the Vatutin monument or to relocate his remains to a different place. Furthermore, city administrations have the right to change street names, but decisions on dismantling Soviet era monuments can only be taken by the Ukrainian parliament. Vatutin’s monument is not on the list of Kyiv monuments to be dismantled.
The Ukrainian National Memory Institute tasked with overseeing de-communization of city and street names as well as monuments explains that memorials to individuals who took part in liberating Ukraine from Nazi occupation are not subject to demolition, even if that person was in a leadership position in the Communist Party, as general Vatutin clearly was.
Speaking to StopFake, city councilor Yuriy Syrotiuk, whose Facebook post created the Vatutin brouhaha, said he believes people should be buried in cemeteries and not in parks and he would contact Vatutin‘s family about a possible reburial.
The northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv recently transferred the remains of two communist partisans from the city center to a nearby cemetery.