On Tuesday, Polish Education Minister Przemysław Czarnek announced that he has initiated the process of extraditing Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian veteran who served in the Nazi regime and was recently recognized by Canadian politicians.
Last Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Canada and House Speaker Anthony Rota introduced Hunka as a war hero from Canada and Ukraine. This led to a standing ovation from members of parliament.
The homage sparked backlash from Jewish groups, activists, and leaders worldwide due to Hunka’s involvement with the First Ukrainian Division, also referred to as the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division. This division fought for the Nazis under Adolf Hitler during World War II in their battle against the Red Army of Russia.
On X, formerly known as Twitter, Czarnek stated that due to the scandalous events in the Canadian Parliament involving the honoring of a member of the criminal Nazi SS Galizien formation in the presence of President Zelenskyy, he has initiated measures to potentially extradite this individual to Poland.
Czarnek wrote to Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance, an organization dedicated to studying and uncovering past offenses against the Polish people. In his letter, Czarnek requested that they promptly investigate whether Hunka is wanted for crimes against Polish individuals of Jewish descent. He also stated that any evidence of such crimes would justify requesting Hunka’s extradition from Canada.
The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, expressed to the press that the situation was “extremely upsetting” and “deeply embarrassing” for Canada. Rota has since apologized and accepted “full responsibility” for the incident, but has thus far declined to resign from his position.
“The events that took place on Friday are entirely unacceptable,” stated Mélanie Joly, Canada’s Foreign Minister, on Tuesday. “They were a disgrace to the House and to the Canadian people, and I believe the Speaker should heed the concerns of House members and resign.”
Arif Virani, Canada’s Attorney General, has not yet been approached by the Polish government regarding the extradition request. He stated that it would be inappropriate to comment on the initial stages of the extradition process.
Virani stated that extradition is a delicate issue that he ultimately has the power to decide on. He explained that he cannot comment on specific cases until they reach his desk, as doing so could compromise the investigation.
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