FACT CHECK: Volodymyr Zelenskyy Wears Symbol Long Associated With Ukrainian Nationalism
An image shared on Twitter claims Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with the symbol of a fascist World War II Ukrainian nationalist group, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).
Zelenskiy visited Rome wearing a jumper witt the sign of the OUN, Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, responsible for thousands of deaths of civilians during WWII, Nazi and Holocaust collaborators. pic.twitter.com/hQ5mLUCNR3
— Pistis Sophia (@_PistisSophia) May 13, 2023
While the Ukrainian trident has been used by this group, the emblem has long been a symbol of Ukrainian nationalism.
Zelenskyy met with Italian officials and Pope Francis in Rome earlier this month, according to Politico. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni promised Ukraine “full military and financial backing” for their war efforts, the outlet reported.
The Twitter image shows Zelenskyy wearing a shirt with a trident and a sword. The tweet reads, “Zelenskiy visited Rome wearing a jumper witt the sign of the OUN, Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, responsible for thousands of deaths of civilians during WWII, Nazi and Holocaust collaborators.”
This claim, however, is misleading. Zelenskyy is wearing the coat of arms of Ukraine, though in a silver color instead of the usual blue and yellow. The trident dates back to Prince Volodymyr the Great, the ruler of the Kievan Rus, over 1000 years ago, according to Radio Free Europe/Free Liberty.
The symbol was then used for Ukrainian People’s Republic in 1918, before it was absorbed into the Soviet Union, the outlet reported. A Ukrainian website notes that the symbol was adopted as the official coat of arms in 1992 after the country attained independence. (RELATED: Have 100,000 Ukrainian Soldiers Died In The Russian-Ukrainian War?)
The OUN was founded in 1929 and helped Nazi Germany carry out the Holocaust and kill 100,000 Polish citizens, according to Reuters. Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism, told Reuters that far-right Ukrainian groups “naturally used symbols that were historically associated with Ukraine.”
“Pro-Russian propagandists like to point to the fact that the OUN (which was extreme, violent, fascist, anti-Semitic, and committed genocide against Poles and pogroms against Jews) used the symbol. While ignoring the fact that the symbol predates the OUN as a symbol of Ukrainian nationalism and that use of the symbol does not, therefore, necessarily indicate a connection to the OUN,” Pitcavage said.
This is not the first time Zelenskyy has been the target of misinformation. Check Your Fact recently debunked an image that allegedly showed a 2018 tweet from Ukraine’s Defense Ministry criticizing Zelenskyy.