Canada's Denial that It Trained Neo-Nazis

Nick Lin

Members of the Azov Battalion pose with NATO flag in photo posted on twitter.

Evidence shows that through Operation UNIFIER Canada provided training for the Banderite Nazi battalions that are part of Ukraine's military -- a fact the Prime Minister and his government deny and which other cartel parties with seats in the Parliament do not address.

On May 2, 2022, the Prime Minister, while at an event in Windsor promoting the auto sector, responded to a reporter who asked him about remarks made the day before by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in an interview with Italian media. Lavrov had pointed out that the U.S. and Canada "have played a leading role in the training of openly neo-Nazi ultra-radical divisions in Ukraine. The goal has been all these years to get neo-Nazis to join the regular military forces of Ukraine."

Trudeau did not issue a denial. In his usual style, he circumvented the question by trying to discredit Russia instead, saying that all those who oppose "the horrors of the Holocaust and the extremely worrying rise in hate crimes" must "condemn ever more strongly the ridiculous and unacceptable positions of Russia." Accusing Russia of being a Holocaust denier is par for the course -- one of the clumsy and crude ways the U.S. and NATO countries are spreading russophobia and inciting passions to divert attention from what is taking place in Ukraine.

In a May 4 statement emailed to CTV, the Department of National Defence (DND) noted that it recently absolved itself of any allegations that the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have trained Ukrainian neo-Nazis.

"Regarding your questions about our review of the George Washington University report findings, the review was started in the Fall of 2021 and is now complete. The review examined whether the CAF had exercised their due diligence in preventing members of right-wing extremist organizations from receiving training as part of Operation UNIFIER," the statement said. "The report is still under review by the CAF chain of command, but it concludes that there was no factual basis found of neo-Nazi links for the group trained by Task-Force Ukraine."

The statement goes on to claim that the CAF takes "every reasonable measure" to ensure no training is provided to members of extremist elements, and that the report contains classified and sensitive information, and they are analyzing which parts will be released to the public.

The statement specifically claims that "Canada does not train members of Azov Battalion -- this has never been part of our mandate ... what has always been clear is that have not -- nor will we -- be providing training support to Azov and affiliated entities."

CTV noted that claims in the DND statement are directly refuted by first-hand testimony from an Azov Regiment officer interviewed by CTV, "in which he states that while the group was not allowed to take part with Canada's mission in Ukraine known as Operation UNIFIER officially, Canadian instructors 'became friends' with Azov members and instructors, speaking and dealing with them as 'professionals to professionals.'"

A photo featured on the social media account of Azov regiment member Kyrylo Berkal shows Canadian instructors involved with their training.

Prior to this, on April 11, Radio Canada reported that Canadian military personnel trained both members of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion as well as at least one Ukrainian soldier who sported the crest of a Nazi SS unit from World War II. The training took place in November 2020, Radio Canada said.

Canadians training the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, November 3, 2020. Right: soldier in foreground sports  neo-Nazi insignia.

In an April 13 interview with the Ottawa Citizen, Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel said, "There is no question that there are neo-Nazis in different forms in Ukraine, whether they are in the Azov regiment or other organizations." Regarding claims such as those made by Prime Minister Trudeau that allegations made against the Azov regiment are part of a Russian disinformation campaign, Zuroff stated, "It's not Russian propaganda, far from it. These people are neo-Nazis. There is an element of the ultra-right in Ukraine and it's absurd to ignore it."

The Citizen further reported, "Defence sources acknowledged the crest worn by the Ukrainian soldier in Canadian military photos [in the November 2020 training] is the insignia of Ukraine's SS unit which fought for the Nazis. The other photos show Ukrainian troops with insignia linked to the Azov unit."

The Citizen notes that in June 2018, Canadian officials, including military personnel, met with leaders of the Azov unit, despite knowing about its espousal of Nazi ideology. National Defence documents show that their concern was not the interactions with the Azov unit and neo-Nazis, who were clearly part of what Canada officially calls freedom fighters. The concern was that news media would expose details of the meeting when Canadians allowed themselves to be with unit members, which the Azov Battalion then used for propaganda purposes.

Meeting between Canadian officials and the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, June 18, 2020.

On April 29, the Investigative Committee of Russia issued a statement that it is investigating the activities of Canadian military instructors who trained Ukrainian neo-Nazis. "The Investigative Committee's investigators, who are looking into this fact as part of criminal cases related to the crimes of Ukrainian nationalists, will employ measures to identify those engaged in military training programs teaching ways to commit crimes against civilians," the statement reads.

Photo posted to the Canadian Armed Forces in Ukraine Facebook page shows then Commanding Officer of Canada's Operation UNIFIER Lieutenant-Colonel Ryan Stimpson speaking at the 2020 graduation ceremony for Ukraine's National Army Academy at the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre in Yavoriv. There is evidence those belonging to an organization called "Centuria" with ties to the Azov Battalion operate inside the Academy.
Alongside Canadian soldiers, Canada's Ambassador to Ukraine Roman Waschuk speaks at an August 21, 2019 ceremony that unveiled a monument in Sambir to honour members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army which collaborated with the Nazis.

The Azov Battalion and several others like it that espouse neo-Nazi ideology were founded in 2014 and funded by various oligarchs. They stand accused of human rights violations and war crimes by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Amnesty International for their activities against the people of the Donbass region.

The presence of neo-Nazis in the ranks of the Ukrainian military is so pervasive that even the President of Ukraine, who NATO governments and media assure us cannot be a Nazi because he is a Jew, in an act ostensibly intended to mark the victory over Nazi fascism on Victory Day, May 9, shared a photo on Instagram and Telegram of a Ukrainian soldier wearing the "death's head" (totenkopf). The "death's head" is the insignia of the 3rd SS Panzer Division, a unit of elite Nazi soldiers infamous for committing numerous war crimes and massacres of French civilians and Polish Jews. The aim was, presumably, to hail the Ukrainian resistance against what he calls Russian aggression which is compared to Nazi aggression during World War II. While the picture was soon deleted from his social media, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence also posted the photo.

In today's violent climate fostered by neo-liberal governments, the "death's head" logo is a known "hate symbol" used by neo-Nazis and other white supremacists.

Similarly, NATO on International Women's Day used Twitter to highlight women in Ukraine's military but had to pull the tweet after social media users pointed out that women pictured were wearing Nazi-affiliated insignia, the Ottawa Citizen reported on April 13.

Ukraine is said to be the only country in the world that has integrated openly neo-Nazi militias into its national military. While these militias were once described by monopoly media as "neo-Nazi," this has now been sanitized by referring to them as "far-right groups." Since Russian troops entered Ukraine in February, stashes of Nazi paraphernalia have been found in the houses and bases of these militia members, and social media accounts run by the Ukrainian government have posted similar images of soldiers wearing Nazi and far-right insignia.

On May 9, 2015, TML Weekly reported on a meeting organized by extreme right-wing nationalists and Nazi collaborators to commemorate the end of World War II by gathering on May 7 to mark a newly established "Day of Remembrance for World War II Victims" at the Center of National Rebirth in Kiev. At the meeting, they gave the appeal for Kiev to take up its "historic mission to continue the deed of our predecessors" to destroy Moscow, freeing the Russian people and enabling them to shape their own future. Those present at the May 7 meeting were veterans of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS and Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), and members of the neo-Nazi volunteer battalions fighting with government troops against the people of Donestk and Lugansk.

The meeting was also attended by Yuri Sirotyuk, a member of the fascist political party Svoboda. The party's official website posted the text of his speech at the event. "We shall get rid of the dead load of imperialism," Sirotyuk is reported to have said.

"I believe that if we truly want it, we will do it. Another question is that Ukraine, unfortunately, is still not a national Ukrainian power. Some of the Ukrainian political leadership feel indifference towards the Ukrainian nation. The Ukrainian leadership feel indifference when Ukrainian officers are being buried. But they feel sore when their stocks are falling and when they think of their factories, located in Russia," he said.

According to the website, the meeting was part of the "Historic Dialogues" project and the theme of the gathering was "The Second World War and Russian-Ukrainian War of 2014-2015: Parallels and Regularities."

These are all people that officials of the government of Canada and Canadian military leaders have been dealing with.

(With files from Canadian Press, BBC, Al Jazeera, Toronto Star, TML Weekly. Photos: Toten Kopf, Kyrylo Berkal)

This article was published in
Volume 53 Number 1 - February 2023

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