Freeland warns of Russian propaganda after Putin comments on Hunka invite – National

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Russia is “weaponizing” the mistake of inviting and honouring Yaroslav Hunka to Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland warned Thursday.

She told reporters that Canada needs to push back hard against Russian President Vladimir Putin after he commented on the House of Commons’ standing ovation for the Ukrainian man who fought for a Nazi unit during the Second World War.

Putin said Thursday that the standing ovation for Hunka, who fought for the Wafen-SS unit against the Russians, was “disgusting” and it shows that Russia was right to “de-Nazify” Ukraine, the ongoing reason Russia has given for its invasion of the country.

“He [former House speaker Antony Rota] essentially lumped together Nazi collaborators, [Nazi] SS troops and the Ukrainian military of today who are fighting against Russia,” Putin told an audience at the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi in response to a question, according to Reuters.

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“He lumped them together. This only confirms our thesis that one of our goals in Ukraine is denazification.”

Putin said that if Rota was unaware that Russia fought against the Nazis in World War II, then he is an “idiot.”

When asked about Putin’s comments, Freeland said Thursday that while Canada can’t change the fact that Rota made a mistake inviting Hunka, “we can decide how effective Vladimir Putin is at weaponizing that mistake.”

“I would urge all of us to understand that Russian propaganda is real,” she said. “We need to push back very, very hard against everything that Vladimir Putin says and does.”

Click to play video: 'Trudeau apologizes after Nazi veteran honoured in Parliament'

Trudeau apologizes after Nazi veteran honoured in Parliament

The invitation of Hunka to Parliament led to the resignation of Rota as House speaker, who has now been replaced by Greg Fergus, the first Black Speaker in Canadian history.

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Trudeau has apologized for the invitation and recognition of Hunka, who was described as a Canadian and Ukrainian hero and received two standing ovations, including from Trudeau and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was visiting and spoke in Canada’s Parliament. Zelenskyy himself is Jewish.

Jewish groups are now calling for the declassification of the Deschenes Report, which probed the Nazis that came to Canada after the end of the Second World War. Parts of that have been released, but others have remained secret.

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon has also recently apologized for the Order of Canada being granted to Peter Savaryn in 1987, who served in the same Waffen-SS unit.

— With files from Reuters.

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