Right after Zelensky delivered an address in front of the Canadian Parliament, the lawmakers celebrated 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka when Speaker Anthony Rota drew attention to him. The speaker introduced Hunka as a "Canadian and Ukrainian war hero" who fought for the First Ukrainian Division. Hunka, then, waved and nodded to the gallery as he received two standing ovations from the Parliament and the Ukrainian president, who is, by the way, Jewish. (Related: Trudeau and Zelensky emphatically honored a Nazi SS soldier before the Canadian Parliament in "deeply embarrassing" incident.)
The First Ukrainian Division was a voluntary unit commanded by the Nazis that was also known as the Waffen-SS Galicia Division or the SS 14th Waffen Division. It was responsible for "mass murder" and "crimes against humanity during the Holocaust," according to Canada's Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, a non-profit human rights organization dedicated to Holocaust education and antisemitism programs.
For independent news outlet the Gateway Pundit (GP), this was a massive public relations bomb that exploded during the said event and is continuing to set off secondary and tertiary explosions. "Why did Zelensky order the pre-production of a stamp celebrating a retired member of the Waffen SS as a 'Hero' before he showed up in Canada? This was pre-planned. I think Zelensky and his team genuinely thought this would be a PR victory," the GP's Larry Johnson commented, referring to Kriv's stamp with Hunka's elderly mug featured prominently with the accompanying title, "Heroes Don't Die."
Ukraine printed new stamps. pic.twitter.com/b9v8wsPqk8
— Maria Dubovikova (@politblogme) September 26, 2023
"Unbelievable. But this is not just a story about Canada celebrating a Nazi murderer. I think the real story is that Zelensky played a direct role in making this happen. If the stamp pictured above is legit, it gives away the game," he added. "This would mean that someone on Zelensky's side asked [Prime Minister] Justin Trudeau and his advisors to invite Hunka to Parliament… and the gullible and ignorant Trudeau accepted the easily disprovable claim that Hunka was a Ukrainian warrior who fought Russians in World War II.
Meanwhile, reports revealed that the image of the stamp in question is not real. "It was produced by Ukrainian intelligence as part of an operation to inject a piece of false information into the public debate about Hunka to raise doubts about all claims surrounding Hunka's Nazi past," the GP article further indicated but with or without a stamp, the central question remains, "Who proposed honoring Hunka as part of Zelensky's speech?"
According to CBC, ahead of Zelenskyy's visit, Hunka's son contacted Rota's constituency office and asked whether it would be possible for him to attend. Rota gave him one of the seats in his own viewing gallery. Generally, the process of who gets invited to such events is "pretty opaque," according to one former official, but the speaker would certainly have sway. "He certainly would've invited a number of people himself," said Roy Norton who, as chief of protocol, was Canada's most senior official overseeing high-level international visits and other diplomatic matters.
Following the scandalous event, Trudeau apologized for his Parliament's recognition of a man who fought alongside the Nazis. According to the prime minister, the Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota, who stepped down earlier in the week, was "solely responsible" for the invitation and recognition of the man. However, he admitted that this was a mistake that has deeply embarrassed Parliament and Canada.
"All of us who were in the House on Friday regret deeply having stood and clapped, even though we did so unaware of the context," Trudeau said before he entered the House of Commons. "It was a horrendous violation of the memory of the millions of people who died in the Holocaust, and was deeply, deeply painful for Jewish people."
House government leader Karina Gould said that Rota invited and recognized Hunka without informing the government or the delegation from Ukraine and that his lack of due diligence had broken the trust of lawmakers.
Moreover, Trudeau even blamed the "PR bomb explosion on Russia. He said that it was extremely troubling that this egregious error is being politicized by Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime to provide false propaganda about what Ukraine is fighting for.
Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier this week that the standing ovation for Hunka was "outrageous." He blamed it on the "sloppy attitude" toward remembering the Nazi regime. Putin has painted his enemies in Ukraine as "neo-Nazis," although Zelensky is Jewish and lost relatives in the Holocaust. The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies has called the incident "a stain on our country's venerable legislature with profound implications both in Canada and globally."
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