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Putin calls Canadian Parliament's applause of Nazi veteran 'disgusting'

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MOSCOW -

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday called the Canadian Parliament's standing ovations to honour a Ukrainian war veteran who served in Nazi Waffen SS units "disgusting," and said it showed Moscow was right to "denazify" Ukraine.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month formally apologized after the speaker of the Canadian House of Commons, Anthony Rota, praised 98-year-old ex-soldier Yaroslav Hunka in the chamber while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was present. Rota said he had made a mistake and resigned.

"He essentially lumped together Nazi collaborators, SS troops and the Ukrainian military of today who are fighting against Russia," Putin told an audience at the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi in response to a question.

"He lumped them together. This only confirms our thesis that one of our goals in Ukraine is denazification."

It emerged that Hunka had served in the Waffen SS, an autonomous military corps of Adolf Hitler's Nazi party that recruited hundreds of thousands of non-Germans into its ranks as World War Two advanced.

Among them were thousands of Ukrainian nationalists who saw the German forces that had invaded the Soviet Union, including Ukraine, as liberators from Moscow's oppression.

Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, asked about Putin's comments, said the Russian president should not be allowed to take advantage of what she called a terrible mistake by the former speaker.

"I would really urge all of us to understand that Russian propaganda is real ... and we need to push back very, very hard against everything that Vladimir Putin says and does," she told reporters in Ottawa.

The Canadian episode played into the narrative promoted by Putin that he sent his army into Ukraine last year to "demilitarize and denazify" the country. Kyiv and its Western allies say Russia's actions constitute an unprovoked war of aggression designed to grab territory.

Ukraine's Zelenskiy, who is Jewish, says Moscow's claims that his administration is run by Nazis are absurd.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin, Guy Faulconbridge and David Ljunggren; Writing by Alexander Marrow and Kevin Liffey; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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