Canada’s house speaker apologises after praising Ukrainian veteran of Nazi unit

Canada has become embroiled in an escalating political controversy after members of its House of Commons were encouraged to join in a standing ovation for an individual who fought in Ukraine with a Nazi military unit accused of war crimes during the second world war.

The ovation took place shortly after Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, delivered an address to the parliament on Friday, when the assembly’s speaker, Anthony Rota, called lawmakers’ attention to 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka, who he described as a “war hero” who fought for the First Ukrainian Division.

Images from the Canadian parliament showed Zelenskiy and the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, standing and applauding Hunka, in scenes condemned by Jewish groups. As lawmakers cheered, Zelenskiy raised his fist in acknowledgment as Hunka saluted from the gallery during two separate standing ovations.

The Kremlin on Monday called the incident “outrageous” and pictures of Zelenskiy were quickly seized on by pro-Kremlin social media accounts.

Critics said the First Ukrainian Division was better known as the Waffen-SS “Galicia” Division or the SS 14th Waffen Division, a volunteer unit that was under the command of the Nazis.

The decision to allow some 600 members of the division to live in Canada after the second world war has long been a source of controversy in Canada, and was the subject of a government commission of inquiry in the 1980s into whether Canada had become a haven for war criminals.


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