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VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY and Justin Trudeau led the Canadian Parliament in a standing ovation for a Waffen SS veteran on Friday evening.
The incident, noted obliquely in a photograph caption on the Associated Press website and in footage of 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka acknowledging the applause, caused consternation online but has been largely ignored by media outlets.
Mr Hunka was in the audience when the Ukrainian president addressed the parliament seeking continued support against Russia’s invasion of his country. Mr Zelensky’s speech had framed Russia as Ukraine’s nemesis throughout history, citing the 1930s Soviet famine (in which millions of Russians also died) as a deliberate genocide of Ukrainians by Stalin.
Mr Hunka was applauded for fighting against the Soviet Red Army with the “first Ukrainian division” — as the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (“Galicia”), a largely Ukrainian Nazi collaborator unit, was renamed in March 1945 as Germany was on the point of losing the war.
Following the incorporation of openly neonazi units like the Azov and Aidar battalions into the Ukrainian military, the incident underlines the way the war is being used to rewrite history and rehabilitate fascist collaborators while depicting the Soviet Union as the aggressor in World War II.
Monuments to the Red Army, in which millions of Ukrainians fought against Nazism, have been torn down in Ukraine as well as in other eastern European states including Latvia, Bulgaria and Poland.
Speaking to the Morning Star last year, former East German leader Egon Krenz argued that rightwingers across Europe were using the passing of the last generation that fought in World War II to “erase the popular memory” of the Soviet role in liberating Europe and “assert that everything about European socialism was illegitimate.”
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