Why is applauding Ukrainian Nazis a scandal, but not arming them?
Canada's parliament has apologized for celebrating a Ukrainian veteran of a World War II-era Nazi military unit. Yet NATO’s current alliance with Ukrainian neo-Nazi units remains unscathed.
The Canadian government has apologized after giving a Ukrainian veteran of a World War II-era Nazi military unit a warm reception in parliament. Yaroslav Hunka, 98, was honored following an address by visiting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who joined Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the entire House of Commons in a standing ovation. Hunka, Parliamentary Speaker Anthony Rota declared, is a “Canadian hero” who “fought [for] Ukrainian independence against the Russians.”
Ottawa’s applauding lawmakers overlooked that the Russians, at that time, were Canadian allies against Hunka’s Nazi commanders. Hunker served in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, also known as SS Galichina, a unit of the Nazi Party’s paramilitary wing. SS Galichina was directly involved in Nazi atrocities, including the Huta Pieniacka massacre of February 1944, where hundreds of Polish villagers were burned alive.
After an outcry, Rota issued perhaps the vaguest apology on record for heaping praise on a Nazi. The Canadian lawmaker referred to having “recognized an individual in the gallery,” only to then “become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to do so.” For his part, Trudeau blamed Rota, and quickly pivoted to affirming the need to “push back against Russian propaganda, Russian disinformation, and continue our steadfast and unequivocal support for Ukraine.”
If Canada and its NATO allies were consistent in disavowing Ukrainian Nazis, they would be forced to renounce not only an elderly veteran, but some of their current allies.
Although I do not agree with the Kremlin’s labelling of Kiev as a “Nazi regime,” it is undeniable that a powerful neo-Nazi and far-right movement is imbedded in Ukraine’s military. This movement formed the heart of the US-backed Maidan coup that ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014. And in the near decade of war since, Western governments have been a critical ally.