Putin uses Tucker Carlson interview to shoot Zelensky over Hunka affair

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Russian President Vladimir Putin used an interview with American media personality Tucker Carlson to criticize Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for joining a standing ovation for a veteran of a World War II Nazi unit during his visit to Canada.

Zelensky gave a speech to parliament during his visit in September. Before that, it had been presented by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and by Anthony Rota, then Speaker of the House.

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

An elderly man sits in the gallery of Canada's House of Commons.
Yaroslav Hunka, right, awaits the arrival of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the House of Commons in Ottawa on September 22, 2023. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)

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

“The President of Ukraine stood alongside the entire Canadian Parliament and applauded this man. How can anyone imagine that?” Putin told Carlson through a translator. Carlson posted the interview on X, formerly Twitter.

While historians claim the men joined the unit during a period various reasons — including the desire to fight for Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union — the incident constituted a major diplomatic embarrassment for Canada.

Putin has repeatedly claimed that he is waging war against Ukraine in order to “denazify” the country and has threw himself into the Hunka affair to justify his argument in the past.

Western allies, including Canada, have consistently rejected these claims, calling Russia’s full-scale invasion a blatant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.

During the interview, Putin suggested that the Hunka affair had “been swept under the rug in Western countries,” despite widespread media coverage of the incident last fall.

The Russian president has significantly limited his contacts 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 that differs” from that of other English-speaking media, a Putin spokesperson said. (Ian Maule/Getty Images)

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

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

Before his departure from Fox, Carlson repeatedly questioned the validity of U.S. support for Ukraine after the Russian invasion and speculated about why Americans are told to hate Putin so much. His comments were frequently broadcast in Russian state media.

Carlson’s trip comes as he aligns himself with former US President Donald Trump amid growing division within the Republican Party over Putin and the war in Ukraine. Trump has pushed to cut off aid to Ukraine, and the Republican majority controlling the House of Representatives has so far complied.

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