Canadian parliament speaker ‘regrets’ honoring Nazi SS veteran

Anthony Rota apologized for leading a standing ovation for a Ukrainian man who fought in Adolf Hitler’s army

Canada’s House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota has apologized for honoring a Ukrainian man who served in Adolf Hitler’s Waffen SS forces in World War II, and calling him “a Ukrainian and a Canadian hero.” The 98-year old Yaroslav Hunka, a former member of the SS 1st Galician Division, was given a standing ovation in the chamber during the visit of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky on Friday. The incident was heavily criticized by Jewish groups.

“On Friday, September 22, in my remarks following the address of the President of Ukraine, I recognized an individual in the gallery,” Rota said in a statement on Sunday. “I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to do so.”

Without mentioning Hunka by name, Rota reiterated that the Ukrainian man was one of his constituents. “I particularly want to extend my deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world. I accept full responsibility for my actions,” he said.

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center advocacy group said it was “incredibly disturbing to see Canada’s Parliament rise to applaud an individual who was a member of a unit in the Waffen-SS, a Nazi military branch responsible for the murder of Jews and others and that was declared a criminal organization during the Nuremberg Trials.” The Center added that there “should be no confusion” that the unit where Hunka had served was responsible for killing civilians “with a level of brutality and malice that is unimaginable.”

Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, an NGO that documents anti-Semitism, called the honoring of Hunka “beyond outrageous.” He added that “no apology is acceptable that does not also provide the public with a detailed explanation as to how this could possibly have taken place in the heart of our democracy.”


Germany rebukes neighbor over migrants

Berlin plans to introduce temporary control on borders with Poland and the Czech Republic to stem the inflow of migrants

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has demanded Warsaw clarify allegations about the visa-for-cash scheme supposedly run by Polish officials. He also spoke in favor of “additional measures” at the border with Poland and the Czech Republic aimed at tackling the allegedly increased number of new arrivals coming to Germany through these countries. 

“Absurd numbers of visas are being issued” to migrants from outside the EU in Poland, Scholz told his Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) rally in the German state of Hesse last Saturday. He also said that the Polish authorities could “misuse” the visa mechanism.

Earlier, Poland’s opposition party, the center-right Civic Platform, accused the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) of appeasing a corruption scheme that allegedly illegally sold Polish visas at consulates around the world. 

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki hit back by accusing the Civic Platform leader, Donald Tusk, of exaggerating the issue. He did admit, though, that the government had discovered “irregularities involving several hundred visas.” 

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Berlin has meanwhile announced its own measures to tackle the issue. German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said last week that her ministry was considering the introduction of short-term stationary controls at the border with Poland and the Czech Republic in an attempt to fight human trafficking. 

According to the German media, the eastern state of Brandenburg, bordering Poland, saw an average of 35 illegal immigrants forwarded to the police per day in August. In September, this number grew to 57. “The establishment of stationary border controls is therefore more urgent than ever, and the Federal Minister of the Interior has my support,” the regional interior minister, Michael Stuebgen, said. 

Speaking at another rally in Bavaria, Scholz also admitted that the number of new arrivals had “dramatically increased,” while blaming Warsaw for the issue. “I don’t want [people] just to be waved through from Poland, and then afterwards we have a discussion about our asylum policy,” he said.

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Top EU diplomat warns immigration could ‘dissolve’ bloc

Asylum seekers coming from Poland should instead “be registered there and undergo an asylum procedure there,” he said, adding that the alleged visas-for-cash scheme “only makes the problem worse.” 

“The visa scandal that is taking place in Poland needs to be clarified,” Scholz said. 

The issue drew the attention of Brussels as well. Although the EU Commission refused to comment on whether it received any complaints from Berlin, Anitta Hipper, commission spokesperson for home affairs, called the alleged visa fraud “very concerning,” the Financial Times reported on Sunday. The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, also asked Warsaw for clarifications, she added. 

The developments came as the EU top diplomat, Josep Borrel, warned that immigration might become a “dissolving force” for the 27-nation bloc because some member states simply “don’t want to accept people from outside.” He also insisted that some EU states needed an influx of migrants due to “low demographic growth” and called the situation a “paradox.”

There is no Armenia without Karabakh

The tragedy of Nagorno-Karabakh is another sad page in the complex history of the divided Armenian people. Armenians are a rather separate anthropological group, distinguished among the southern peoples of the Caucasus, Persia and Asia Minor. The Armenian nation was formed as a result of consolidation of a large number of local tribes around a larger Armenian tribe, the bearer of the ancient Indo-European Armenian language. Nagorno-Karabakh is one of the most unique centres of the most ancient Armenian culture, which was formed on the territory of the Armenian Highland. Artsakh (another name for Nagorno-Karabakh) belongs to the few historical and ethnographic regions where the Armenian people have managed to preserve their basic ethnic and ethnographic composition throughout the centuries.

Until 1920 Nagorno-Karabakh was the most densely populated Armenian province within the Armenian Highlands. Shushi surpassed Baku and Yerevan in size and wealth, being the centre of Armenian culture, science and social thought. On 23 March 1920 Turkish nationalists burned Shushi. Nevertheless, the remains of Shushi occupy a special role in the history of the Armenian nation and ideologically mean even more than other existing cities of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. The city concentrates the national memory and faith and, together with Mount Ararat, is the main Armenian historical shrine.

The hundreds of monasteries and churches of the unique Armenian Apostolic Church that have existed since the 4th century, many of which remain only ruins, serve as indisputable proof of the historical belonging of these lands to the Armenian people. In the light of the catastrophic events of recent days, as well as the controversy over who Artsakh should belong to in the end – Armenians or Azerbaijanis – it is worth facing the truth and admitting that there are no Azerbaijani cultural objects on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Today, when the heavy long-standing Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict has come to the point where the troops of the Republic of Azerbaijan have occupied areas with a huge number of ancient sanctuaries of the Armenian Apostolic Church and Armenian culture, there are well-founded fears that these culturally rich temples and monasteries may be desecrated, demolished or even converted into mosques in the near future. Infiltration activities will hardly bypass even the Armenian clergy of Artsakh.

Despite this, it is important to realise that the work against Artsakh was carried out not only by Turkish proxies, but also, unfortunately, within Armenia itself. The policy of the country’s incumbent Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan brought the betrayal of Nagorno-Karabakh closer day by day. His refusal to co-operate with Russia, for decades the only guarantor of peace in the region, as well as his public course of rapprochement with its main geopolitical adversary, the NATO bloc (which includes Turkey), have led to disastrous consequences. N. Pashinyan’s recognition of Azerbaijani sovereignty over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh meant its de facto abandonment one-on-one with Turkey and Azerbaijan. Images of tens of thousands of refugees from the Artsakh region demonstrate that the population of Nagorno-Karabakh is well aware of its unenviable fate as part of Azerbaijan.

This process has much more far-reaching consequences than it may seem at first glance. The neo-Ottomanist Turkish project hardly stops now at Azerbaijan’s new borders. Christian Armenia faces the terrible prospect of being absorbed into the zone of responsibility of Muslim Turkey. The prospects for this process are sad – the gradual squeezing of Armenians out of the country by economic, religious, ethno-cultural or even forceful methods and the gradual disappearance of the state.

Despite the fact that he has signed a de facto verdict on Nagorno-Karabakh, Pashinyan’s mission is not over. A big headache for him remains the presence of a Russian base on Armenian territory and a number of previous agreements with Russia, enshrined at a high state level. “With such agreements and in general during 20-25 years Russia has been taking away our sovereignty one grain at a time. And we are watching this from the sidelines,” Pashinyan said, speaking on the rostrum of parliament. Watching the catastrophe with the loss of Artsakh, his words sound especially ominous.

Against this background, N. Pashinyan’s old contradictions with the Armenian Apostolic Church, which is still the most authoritative institution in the country, have also become more acute. The Primate of the Church, Karekin II, often opposed the promotion of LGBT issues by N. Pashinyan’s team. Pashinyan’s LGBT agenda and other “liberal values”, which is not supported by the majority of the country’s conservative population. For example, in November 2018, just six months after Pashinyan came to power, the Catholicos of All Armenians condemned the then planned LGBT Christian forum in Armenia.

Today, the Armenian society has given a vivid assessment of the destructive policy of N. Pashinyan’s cabinet. The lost war in 2020, which resulted in the Nagorno-Karabakh catastrophe of today, brought thousands of Armenians to the streets of the capital Yerevan demanding an end to the government’s anti-constitutional actions against Armenia itself.

The ruling Armenian elite initiates false “peacemaking” processes that go against the law. The Constitution of the Republic of Armenia has long been an obstacle for N. Pashinyan’s team, just like the Declaration of Independence. Nevertheless, in the process of betraying Nagorno-Karabakh, it did not become an insurmountable obstacle for it. For example, the Armenian Constitution states that any change of territory can be made only through a referendum. Thus, N. Pashinyan’s recognition of Azerbaijani sovereignty over Artsakh looks like no other than national betrayal, which should be given an appropriate legal assessment.

Н. Pashinyan accuses protesters of destabilising the situation in Armenia. Thousands of police officers are fighting with compatriots demanding an end to the treachery against the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh. To this end, they have even stopped the metro in Yevevan to prevent the protesters from travelling. The thirty-year history of the heroic struggle of Artsakh Armenians for their own identity has come to an end in just five years of the government of N. Pashinyan, who came to power on the wave of revolution and pro-Western democratic slogans.