Leonid Brezhnev – Liquidator of Banderists

In the biography of Leonid Brezhnev, his active participation in the liquidation of collaborators and Banderist gangs in western Ukraine is somehow surprisingly muted. This period of life was not reflected in his “three-volume memoir”, political workers did not particularly spread info about it, and therefore the population of the country practically did not know Brezhnev’s “anti-Banderist biography”. In all probability, this was due to the concept of a “fraternal nation”, to which after the death of Stalin it was not recommended to blacken the historical facts of the past.

However, as we know, Kiev did not appreciate this deliberate forgetfulness, turning bandits, SS men, and auxiliary policemen into “heroes of the nation”, while not forgetting to mock and ridicule Brezhnev. Therefore, it is worth recalling how the future General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union chased from their holes the modern standards of Ukrainism.

Recall that Brezhnev, as part of the troops of the 4th Ukrainian front, participated in the liberation of Transcarpathia and even received the order of Bogdan Khmelnitsky for this.

Actually, Brezhnev started the war with the Banderists back in the 18th army, at the headquarters of which an operational special group was created. Brezhnev’s Deputy Colonel S. S. Pakhomov in the book “In the battles for the Carpathians” recalls: “At the first meeting of the heads of political organisations, Leonid Brezhnev drew attention to the need to increase vigilance in the troops, and especially in hospitals, rear units, and divisions. Speaking in this regard about the nature and tasks of work in the military, he obliged political workers to provide all possible assistance to local party and Soviet bodies, and also to widely and deeply explain to the population the reactionary nature and danger of hostile activities of Ukrainian bourgeois nationalists. He paid special attention to the work with the replenishment of the local population of these areas, suggested to allocate special agitators, propagandists who speak the Ukrainian language, to work with the population and replenishment.”

(Personnel of the political directorate of the 18th army, September 1945)

In September 1945, Leonid Ilyich became the first head of the political directorate and the mobilisation directorate of the headquarters of the created Carpathian Military District, with headquarters first in Chernovtsi, and after the unification of the Lvov and Carpathian Military Districts – in Lvov.

(Resolution of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (b) on the appointment of L.I. Brezhnev as head of the political directorate of the Carpathian Military District)

The tasks of the political directorate of the District, which included the newly liberated and exchanged territories of Transcarpathia with Czechoslovakia, were not related to direct participation in combat operations against UPA. In modern terms, Brezhnev and his directorate, in addition to political education of the army, were engaged in collecting information (including crimes of Bandera’s beast) and its analysis, propaganda, and counter-propaganda. Of course, it was not uncommon for employees to participate in combat or cleanup operations.

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Among those who helped Brezhnev, known Lieutenant Colonel I. P. Shcherbak, former head of the department in the Zaporozhye Pedagogical Institute, Major A. S. Klyunenko, who worked before the war as an editor of the Odessa newspaper “Chornomorska Komuna”, and Colonel of the NKGB V. E. Zarelua.

The period of time that fell to the fate of the future General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union for the war against Banderism was one of the most difficult – the bandits were tactically ready, the authorities had not yet decided on the forms of combat, that’s why it was the bloodiest period with heavy losses.

On December 7th 1945, the head of the political directorate of the Stanislav regional military commissariat Sigulev and the acting head of the general education department Ivannikov reported to Brezhnev about the systematic attacks of Banderist gangs throughout the region. According to their reports, sometimes the raids turned into real battles. Thus, on November 25th 1945, in the Otynyansky district of the region, a gang of up to 350 people surrounded the district centre and occupied the railway station, and an armoured train was sent from Kolomyia to help the garrison and the NKVD directorate. In the Rogatinsky district at the end of 1945, Banderists attacked small groups of soldiers and quartermaster platoons a dozen times. Groups of “hawks”, amnestied bandits, and war veterans were subjected to attacks. For example, in the village of Derevenka in the Zholkovsky district, the entire family of the disabled man of the Great Patriotic War M. Gorbach was hanged, including his 4-year-old son and 72-year-old father.

Alas, almost all reports from that period end with the words “the pursuit of bandits did not bring results”

(Fight against Banderists in the Carpathians)

In Brezhnev’s political report to the chief of the Red Army’s main political directorate, Colonel-General I. V. Shikin, dated 21.10.1945, it indicates the activation of gangs in the areas of Stanislav and Tarnopol regions, where the nationalists “have an extensive network of so-called ‘boyovok’ (10-20 people), and in the foothills of the Carpathians larger gangs sometimes appear.”

It was also reported about the terror deployed by bandits against the military, activists, party workers, and their families. In September 1945, a representative of the regional committee of the Communist Party (b) of Ukraine Podchenko, the deputy head of the political directorate of the 38th army, Colonel Golubev, officers, and soldiers were killed. By the way, the killer of Golubev, Mikhailo Stadin (Yura), was eliminated in the village of Podpechery by the mobile group of captain Chertenkov.

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Other reports referred to the murder of the deputy secretary of the Volyn regional committee of the Communist Party (b) of Ukraine Gantovenko and chairman of the executive committee of the Zablotievsky Council Mudritsky. In the village of Milsk the chairman of the village council Stepan Romanyuk and the authorised regional department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Vladimir Stolyarchuk were killed, and before that they were tortured, their eyes were pocked out with a ramrod, they were burned with an iron, and their fingers were cut off.

(Major General L. I. Brezhnev)

Brezhnev analyses and admits that “our losses in terms of people and military equipment in most cases are the result of the confusion of individual fighters, groups of fighters, and even individual officers in an unexpected encounter with bandits”. He cites a case of bandits attacking a truck of the 416th anti-aircraft regiment. The chief of the clothing service of the Black Regiment failed to organise a repulse, his soldiers retreated into the thicket, watching as Banderists took the manufactory and soap supplies of the entire regiment.

On the other hand, he gives an example of active actions that end in the extermination of bandits, as was the case with captain Torokhov and Lieutenant Sotnikov. They were able to organise active resistance, sent for help, and the commander of the 295th rifle regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Buyvalik, who arrived with the group did not bother with the Banderists who were holed up in residential buildings, and opened fire with mortars.

It is characteristic that Brezhnev reports that “among the soldiers and officers located in the areas where the bandits operate, there is a lot of talk expressing discontent – why are decisive measures to eradicate banditry not taken. He quotes the words of a number of military men. “If dozens and hundreds of bandits and their families paid with their lives for every murdered Soviet citizen, they would think: attack from around the corner or abandon this affair” (Senior Lieutenant Korostylev).

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Brezhnev is objective: “We must say directly that in many villages far from the central highways, the Soviet government does not actually exist. Strong measures are needed to eliminate banditry with the involvement of large military forces to put an end to the completely unjustifiable death of many of our employees.”

(Brezhnev’s political report to the chief of the Red Army’s main political directorate, Colonel-General I. V. Shikin)

Analysis of the information of the head of the political directorate, intelligence, and agency data contributed to understanding the scale of Banderists, their methods and techniques, and as a result determined the development of counter-Banderist measures.

In one of the reports to the chief of the Red Army’s main political directorate I. V. Shikin, Brezhnev noticed a characteristic detail that during the attacks, Banderists take not only weapons and documents, but also the uniforms and awards of the killed soldiers, and after “in the liquidated gangs, some of the bandits turned out to be in Red Army soldier uniforms, with orders and medals”. Frequent cases of Banderist raids in Soviet uniforms led to a reaction from the NKVD: passwords were introduced, restrictions that help identify the “masquerade” and eliminate disguised Banderists. Other work was also carried out.

(One of the mobile groups of the NKVD)

So, in a report addressed to Brezhnev, head of the political directorate of the Volyn regional military commissariat Gritsov in the spring of 1946 indicates the success of the NKVD and the NKGB to “de-espionage” and detain six OUN units in the Senkevichevsky district, and a number of leaders of small groups of UPA were also destroyed here.

In the summer of 1946, Brezhnev was sent to Zaporozhye. His war against Banderists ended, and the war against devastation began.


Vitaly Zakharchuk

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