OTTAWA—A standing ovation during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to Canada’s Parliament for a veteran who turned out to have fought alongside the Nazis has sent ripples across the globe, and seen the launch of a disinformation campaign in Russia.
Opposition leaders and MPs have called the controversy an international embarrassment for Canada, with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take responsibility.
The incident has sparked global attention, with Russia using it in its anti-Ukraine disinformation campaigns. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the winter of 2022, President Vladimir Putin has tried to justify it as an operation to “de-Nazify” the country.
House Speaker Anthony Rota resigned on Tuesday after he invited Yaroslav Hunka, 98, to be honoured by all parliamentarians during a visit by Zelenskyy on Friday as a “Ukrainian and Canadian hero” for fighting for Ukrainian independence from Russia in the Second World War. Hunka had, in fact, served in the SS 14th Waffen Division, a unit under Nazi command.
Zelenskyy’s visit was intended to promote support for Ukraine against Russia’s invasion. Instead, Singh said, the incident could harm the war efforts.
In response, Russian officials were quick to portray Canada as supporting a veteran who fought with the Nazis, despite MPs roundly rejecting the honouring of Hunka once his background became known.
“Citizens of this country must once again think about who their leaders glorify and what kind of junta they support in Ukraine,” the Russian embassy in Canada wrote in a statement posted on social media.