Nazis sparked outrage and an apology in Canada,
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov took aim at the memorial to World War II veteran Yaroslav Honka.
The Kremlin said Monday it was “shocking” that a Ukrainian man who served in Adolf Hitler’s Waffen SS during World War II was honored as a hero by Canada’s parliament last week. 98-year-old Jaroslav Hunka received two standing ovations from Canadian lawmakers during the visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The Speaker of the Canadian Parliament has since apologized to Jewish groups for the incident. Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said the incident showed a careless disregard for historical truth and that the memory of Nazi crimes must be preserved.
“It is shocking that such a sloppy memory is available,” Peskov told reporters. “Many Western countries, including Canada, are raising a younger generation who don’t know who fought whom or what happened during World War II. They have no idea about the threat of fascism.”
Spokesman Anthony Rota introduced Honka as a “Ukrainian-Canadian veteran who fought for Ukraine’s independence from Russia during World War II” and “a Ukrainian and Canadian hero.”
During World War II, when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, some Ukrainian nationalists joined the Nazi forces because they saw the Germans as liberators from Soviet oppression.
A Jewish rights group is demanding an apology
Honk served as a member of the 14th SS Waffen Grenadier Division during World War II, according to the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group that requested and received Roth’s apology.
“Later I learned more information that made me regret my decision [to celebrate Honka]. I would like to clarify that no one, including parliamentarians and the Ukrainian delegation, knew about my intentions or remarks before I gave my speech,” Rota said.
“I especially want to express my deepest apologies to the Jewish community in Canada and around the world,” he added. The episode echoes the narrative promoted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who last year sent troops to Ukraine to “demilitarize and de-Nazify” the country. The Jewish president of this European democracy lost family members in the Holocaust.
Peskov told reporters that Russia was engaged in an “irreconcilable fight” against fascism, which is “trying to gain a foothold in Ukraine, in the heart of Europe.”