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Kremlin says Canadian recognition of veteran from Nazi unit is 'outrageous'


The Kremlin said on Monday it was "outrageous" that a Ukrainian man who served in one of Adolf Hitler's Waffen SS units during the Second World War had been presented to Canada's parliament last week as a hero.

Yaroslav Hunka, 98, received two standing ovations from Canadian lawmakers during a visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The speaker of Canada's parliament has since apologized to Jewish groups for the incident.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the episode showed a careless disregard for historical truth, and that the memory of Nazi crimes must be preserved.

"Such sloppiness of memory is outrageous," Peskov told reporters. "Many Western countries, including Canada, have raised a young generation that does not know who fought whom or what happened during the Second World War. And they know nothing about the threat of fascism."

Canadian parliament speaker Anthony Rota introduced Hunka as "a Ukrainian Canadian war veteran from the Second World War who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians" and "a Ukrainian hero and a Canadian hero."

During World War Two, when Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union, some Ukrainian nationalists joined Nazi units because they saw the Germans as liberators from Soviet oppression.

Hunka served in World War Two as a member of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, according to the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group that demanded and received an apology from Rota.

The episode plays into the narrative promoted by Russian President Vladimir Putin that he sent his army into Ukraine last year to "demilitarize and denazify" the country, a European democracy whose Jewish president lost family members in the Holocaust.

At a televised meeting with historians this month, Putin stressed the part that "local nationalists and anti-Semites" had played in the murder of 1.5 million Jews in Ukraine during the Holocaust and said, "This has a direct relation to the present day."

Peskov told reporters that Russia was waging an "irreconcilable fight" against fascism that was "trying to find its feet in the centre of Europe, in Ukraine."

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge Writing by Mark Trevelyan Editing by Gareth Jones)



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