Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday,signed laws banning Soviet symbols and communist-era propaganda, according to his office.
The “decommunisation laws” which Mashable interpreted as “an ideological spring cleaning” were approved by parliament on Apr. 9 and drew sharp criticism from Russian circles who called them “totalitarian.”
Ukraine’s pro-Western government is fighting rebels in the east of the country who are allegedly backed by Russia.
Russia denies the claims. The relationship between the two countries is fraught with tension.
Poroshenko’s spokesman Svyatoslav Tsegolko wrote on Twitter that the move was a “giant step forward for Ukraine.”
Sputnik News agency reports Poroshenko’s office as stating: "The documents ban Soviet symbols, denounce the Communist regime [of 1917-1991], allow access to secret archives of the Soviet secret services and recognize members of UPA and other nationalist organizations as fighters for Ukraine's independence."
According to the package of laws, Soviet flags and symbols - such as the sickle-and-hammer - as well as Nazi propaganda are banned, statues of Lenin will be demolished and town squares across the country are to be renamed.
State archives from the Soviet era, including cloak-and-dagger operations of the security services, are to be made public, and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) is officially recognised.
The recognition of UPA members as “fighters for Ukraine’s independence” is a controversial subject as while the underground group fought Soviet and German armies during WWII, some members are said to have been Nazi collaborators and responsible for the deaths of thousands of Poles and Jews in western Ukraine.
Anyone who breaks the laws is punishable by up to five years in prison.