August 18, 2014 / 3:17 AM / 5 years ago

Grave of Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera vandalised in Germany

A statue of Stepan Bandera is seen in the Ukrainian city of Lviv, April 10, 2010. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich/Files

MUNICH (Reuters) - The grave of Stepan Bandera, a leader of Ukrainian fighters who fought both Nazi and Soviet forces during World War Two and after, was vandalised in a German cemetery overnight, police said on Sunday.

A marble cross about 1.80 metres high was torn down from his grave in Munich and left lying behind it, soil was removed from the grave and vases of flowers were overturned, police said in a statement.

Bandera, who fought Soviet rule well into the 1950s and was assassinated by a KGB agent in 1959, is regarded as a hero by many in western Ukraine but in the Russian-speaking east of the country many take the Soviet view that he was a terrorist.

Bandera’s controversial legacy has been at the centre of the protests that ousted Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich and replaced him with a pro-European government.

The damage to his grave was discovered on a day when German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was meeting his Ukrainian, Russian and French counterparts in Berlin to discuss how to end the crisis in Ukraine.

Authorities said criminal police had begun an investigation. German media quoted police as saying they did not have any evidence the crime was politically motivated.

Reporting by Christine Soukenkal; additional reporting by Thomas Grove in Donetsk; writing by Michelle Martin; editing by Andrew Roche

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