It was supposed to cover his cold ears, but a second-hand hat with a Soviet-era symbol has landed one 19-year-old Ukrainian in hot water, with police deciding that the Russian-speaking boy broke anti-communist measures.
Police in the Western Ukrainian city of Lvov reported on Monday that a criminal investigation has been launched after the teenager was detained for falling foul of strict local laws governing “the use of communist symbols on clothing.” Prosecutors say they will look to charge him under rules that ban both Nazi and Soviet iconography, with the maximum penalty stretching to five years behind bars.
According to local newspaper Dilo, ‘anti-terrorist’ operative Igor Sholtys apprehended the young man, whose name has not been revealed, while he was out walking with a friend. He was wearing a traditional Soviet ear-flap ushanka-hat, which bore the communist hammer and sickle crest.
Sholtys gave journalists details of the daring sting operation, in which he “asked where they got the symbol. They said they bought it at the flea market because it was cold, and did not know that symbols like these were forbidden.” When an “investigation” uncovered that the boy was a Russian-speaker from the capital, Kiev, the police were called.
However, much to the disappointment of militiaman Sholtys, the on-duty cop who showed up on the scene gave him short shrift, rather than just arresting the boy as he had hoped. “One of the patrol police officers had frankly non-Ukrainian views and began to be rude to us,” he said. Eventually, however, authorities confiscated the hat and took the boy’s details for charges to be prepared. Pre-trial investigations are ongoing.
The Ukrainian parliament moved to ban communist symbols like the hammer and sickle in 2015, but the city of Lvov had introduced similar measures of its own at least three years beforehand. As well as Soviet-era icons, citizens can face jail terms for singing or playing the former anthem of the USSR or any of its former republics.
However, as recently as 2018, a notorious Waffen SS division was celebrated in the western Ukrainian city, with swastikas on display to mark the 75th anniversary of the formation of a local Nazi-aligned partisan unit in WWII.
Lvov, once one of the cultural centers of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, has traditionally been a Ukrainian nationalist stronghold, with among the lowest numbers of native Russian-speakers in the country.
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