Putin uses Tucker Carlson interview to take shots at Zelenskyy over Hunka affair | CBC News

Russian President Vladimir Putin used an interview with U.S. media personality Tucker Carlson to take a shot at Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for joining in a standing ovation for a veteran of a Second World War Nazi unit during his visit to Canada.

Zelenskyy gave an address to Parliament during the September visit. Before that, he was introduced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then-Speaker of the House Anthony Rota.

During his introduction, Rota recognized a man from his riding, Yaroslav Hunka, and praised the Ukrainian-Canadian for fighting the Russians during the Second World War. Zelenskyy, Trudeau and the rest of the House rose to applaud Hunka.

An elderly man sits in the gallery in the Canadian House of Commons.
Yaroslav Hunka, right, waits for the arrival of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Sept. 22, 2023. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)

Media reports later revealed that Hunka fought with the Waffen-SS Galicia Division, also known as the SS 14th Waffen Division and sometimes the First Ukrainian Division. The unit was made up of Ukrainian volunteers from Galicia and was under Nazi command.

“The president of Ukraine stood up with the entire Parliament of Canada and applauded this man. How can this be imagined?” Putin told Carlson through a translator. Carlson posted the interview on X, formerly Twitter.

While historians say men joined the unit for a variety of reasons — including a desire to fight for Ukrainian independence from the Soviet Union — the incident was a major diplomatic embarrassment for Canada.

Putin has repeatedly claimed he is waging war on Ukraine in order to “de-Nazify” the country and has jumped on the Hunka affair to justify his argument in the past.

Western allies, including Canada, have consistently pushed back against those claims, calling Russia’s full-scale invasion a blatant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.

During the interview, Putin suggested that the Hunka affair is “being silenced in Western countries,” despite extensive media coverage of the incident last fall.

The Russian president has greatly limited his contact with international media since he launched the full-scale war in Ukraine in February 2022.

Tucker Carlson is seen appearing at an event in Las Vegas in November 2023.
Tucker Carlson was chosen for the interview because ‘he has a position which differs’ from other English-language media, a spokesperson for Putin said. (Ian Maule/Getty Images)

Western journalists were invited to Putin’s annual press conference in December — the first since the war began — but only two were given the chance to ask a question.

Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that Carlson was chosen for the interview because “he has a position which differs” from other English-language media.

Before his exit from Fox, Carlson repeatedly questioned the validity of U.S. support for Ukraine following the Russian invasion and speculated about why Americans are told to hate Putin so much. His commentaries were frequently circulated on Russian state-run media.

Carlson’s trip comes as he aligns himself with former U.S. president Donald Trump in a growing split in the Republican party over Putin and the Ukraine war. Trump has pushed to cut off aid to Ukraine, and the GOP majority controlling the House of Representatives has so far complied.

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