The Canadian Parliament and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy are facing international outrage for giving a man who fought for the Nazis a standing ovation during an event that was also meant to honor Zelenskyy.
House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota honored 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka, of North Bay, Ontario, Friday during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit, the Washington Post reported.
Following Zelensky’s address to Parliament, in which he thanked Canada for its support in Ukraine’s war against Russia, the Post reports that Rota introduced Hunka as a war hero “who fought [for] the Ukrainian independence against the Russians, and continues to support the troops today.”
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DISGUSTING. Zelenskyy and Canada’s parliament applauding Yaroslav Hunka, a Nazi.— Ian Haworth (@ighaworth) September 24, 2023
His SS division carried out the Huta Pieniacka massacre, burning hundreds of Polish villagers ALIVE.pic.twitter.com/B4elShhPLr
“He’s a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero, and we thank him for all his service,” Rota said as members stood in ovation.
The Canadian lawmakers cheered and Zelenskyy raised his fist in solidarity.
Jewish groups condemned the incident “saying that Hunka had been a member of a Waffen-SS unit — the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division — which was comprised of ethnic Ukrainians. Heinrich Himmler, a leading member of the Nazi Party in Germany, formed the Waffen-SS, which was involved with mass shootings, anti-partisan warfare and supplying guards for Nazi concentration camps.”
“The fact that a veteran who served in a Nazi military unit was invited to and given a standing ovation in Parliament is shocking,” stated the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies.
Rota later apologized.
In a statement late Sunday afternoon to Politico, Rota said he recently became “aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision” to recognize Hunka. He said he takes full responsibility for the seismic gaffe.
“I wish to make clear that no one, including fellow parliamentarians and the Ukraine delegation, was aware of my intention or of my remarks before I delivered them,” he said. “This initiative was entirely my own, the individual in question being from my riding and having been brought to my attention.”