OTTAWA – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country is “deeply sorry” for putting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the position of unknowingly applauding a veteran who served in a Nazi unit.
“This was a mistake that has deeply embarrassed Parliament and Canada,” Mr Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday.
“I also want to reiterate how deeply sorry Canada is for the situation this put President Zelensky and the Ukrainian delegation in,” he said.
“It is extremely troubling to think that this egregious error is being politicised by Russia and its supporters to provide false propaganda about what Ukraine is fighting for.”
The veteran, 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka, had been invited to sit in the parliamentary gallery during Mr Zelensky’s speech on Friday.
Mr Anthony Rota, the Speaker of the House of Commons, issued the invitation and introduced Hunka as a Ukrainian World War II veteran “who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians.”
It was later revealed Hunka served with the 1st Galician division, a unit of the German military’s Waffen-SS.
The story was quickly pounced on by Russian diplomats and state-controlled media.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to justify his invasion of Ukraine as aiming to “de-Nazify” the country, even though Mr Zelensky himself is Jewish.
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