Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree on September 29 to name the country’s 131st Land Forces Reconnaissance Battalion in honor of Yevhen Konovalets, a veteran of the Ukrainian-Soviet War, political leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement, and an ally of Nazi Germany. His decision comes as Canada unapologetically denies or apologizes for its support of Nazism and Khalistani extremist elements.
Yevhen Konovalets was the founder and first leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. The organization would collaborate with the Nazis in World War II, which started only one year after Konovalets assassination in 1938. Konovalets, in the 1930s, maintained ties with the German military intelligence service Abwehr after the Nazis came to power in 1933. He subsequently had two meetings with Adolf Hitler.
Zelensky stated: “In order to restore the historical traditions of the national army, taking into account the exemplary performance of assigned tasks during the protection of the territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine, I decree: To assign the 131st separate reconnaissance battalion of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine the honorary name ‘in the name of Colonel Yevhen Konovalts’ and in the future to call it the 131st Separate Reconnaissance Battalion named after Colonel Yevhen Konovalets of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine”.
The decision to name the battalion after a Nazi collaborator is unsurprising, considering that the normalization of Nazism has been an ongoing process in Ukraine that has either been ignored or encouraged by the West for years. Yet, even now, when there is more mainstream acceptance of Ukraine’s Nazi problem among the general population, the most stubborn Ukraine defenders, such as Canada, deny that such a problem exists.
Only on September 29, Toronto Star columnist Andrew Phillips wrote that the fact Zelensky is Jewish and Defence Minister Rustem Umerov is a Muslim Crimean Tatar “should be enough to debunk the ridiculous notion that Ukraine has a big Nazi problem” for “reasonable people”.
“But not everyone is reasonable and unfortunately this week’s massive screw-up in Parliament, in which a Ukrainian veteran of a Waffen SS division was lauded as a war hero, breathed new life into Moscow’s discredited narrative that its invasion of Ukraine was justified by the need to ‘de-Nazify’ its neighbor”, he added.
Curiously, he claims Ukraine’s Nazi problem is a “discredited narrative” even though it was openly acknowledged in the West before Russia launched its special military operation in February 2022, such as by the Atlantic Council in 2018 and even in June 2023 by the New York Times.
Recently in Canada, Zelensky and Justin Trudeau gave a standing ovation to Ukrainian Nazi veteran Yaroslav Hunka in the Canadian Parliament. Still denying Ukraine’s current Nazi problem in the aftermath of glorifying a Nazi in parliament has exposed Canada’s longstanding problem with Nazis, such as harboring World War II war criminals.
Hunka is a veteran of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, also known as the 1st Galician Division, which was renamed “First Ukrainian Division” toward the war’s end. Although an argument can be made that Hunka slipped through the cracks to enter Canada after the war, it does not explain why Toronto and Edmonton have monuments dedicated to the veterans of this Nazi unit. In fact, anti-fascist vandalism against these monuments prompted local police to launch hate crime investigations.
As the Jacobin highlights: “Canadians are learning a harsh lesson, which is a regrettable trait shared by most World War II Allied nations: their country, too, served as a refuge for fascists, collaborators, and suspected war criminals.
This harsh lesson not only comes as Canada continues to give platitudes to Zelensky, even after his renaming of a battalion after a Nazi collaborator, but as ties with India have deteriorated following Trudeau’s support for Khalistan separatists, Sikh extremists who aim for an independent homeland in northwest India. Trudeau’s unapologetic support for separatism in India is despite the unpopularity of the Khalistan project from within India itself.
“Sikhs in Punjab and those settled in other parts of the country do not support a separate Khalistan”, Partap Singh, secretary general of the Sikh Forum in Delhi, told DW on September 26, with the report adding that it is mostly popular in the diaspora.
It appears Canada will not end its unapologetic support for extremist elements, even after Zelensky renamed a Ukrainian battalion after a Nazi collaborator. This support for extremism will continue to embarrass Canada and ensure that relations with India do not improve.