Trudeau Comments on Tucker Carlson’s Putin Interview, Decries ‘Propaganda’

Trudeau Comments on Tucker Carlson’s Putin Interview, Decries ‘Propaganda’
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council via video link at the Kremlin in Moscow on Oct. 20, 2023. (Sputnik/Gavriil Grigorov/Pool via Reuters)
Matthew Horwood

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians “won’t be fooled” by Russian attempts to use propaganda to undermine support for Ukraine, following recent critical comments made by President Vladimir Putin.

The Russian president, during a Feb. 6 interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, referenced a 2023 incident in which Canadian MPs accidentally paid tribute to a former Nazi.

“I can tell you Canadians will not be fooled. Canada stands with Ukraine,” the prime minister said on Feb. 9 when asked about Mr. Putin’s comments.

“We will continue to be there with Ukraine for as much as it takes, for as long as it takes. Unfortunately, we see the lengths to which Russian propaganda will go to try and impact public opinion to try and twist things.”

The Trudeau government has provided Ukraine with aid totalling $9.5 billion since February 2022, including $4.95 billion in direct financial support and $1.8 billion in military aid. According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Canada has provided the highest per-capita direct financial support to Ukraine among G7 countries.

During his two-hour interview with Mr. Carlson, Mr. Putin said part of Russia’s aim in the war with Ukraine is to “de-Nazify” the country.

As evidence that the ideology exists within Ukraine, Mr. Putin cited the Sept. 22 incident in Canada’s Parliament when a veteran of the Nazi Waffen SS was introduced as a “Ukrainian and Canadian hero” and applauded by MPs from all parties. The incident occurred during a visit from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and became a major international embarrassment for Canada.

House Speaker Anthony Rota, who invited Yaroslav Hunka to Parliament and introduced him to MPs, resigned over the incident. It was recently revealed that the Office of Protocol of Canada sent an email on behalf of the prime minister to Mr. Hunka, inviting him to a reception being held later that night. Mr. Hunka didn’t end up going to the reception.

During the interview, Mr. Putin pointed out that Mr. Hunka was introduced to Parliament as a man who “fought against the Russians” during the Second World War. “Well, who fought against the Russians during World War II? Hitler and his accomplices,” Mr. Putin said.

When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, some Ukrainians who had suffered under a famine exacerbated by Soviet policies welcomed the Germans as liberators. Mr. Hunka fought with the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the Nazi SS, a unit that was accused of massacring between 500 and 1,000 Polish villagers in Huta Pieniacka in February 1944.

“The president of the Ukraine stood up with the entire Parliament of Canada and applauded this man. How can this be imagined? The president of Ukraine himself, by the way, is a Jew by nationality,” the Russian president added.

During the interview, Mr. Putin pushed back against Mr. Carlson’s point that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had been dead for several decades, arguing that the Nazi ideology still remains.

“The current president of today’s Ukraine applauds him in the Canadian Parliament, and gives a standing ovation. So can we say that we have completely uprooted this ideology, if what we see is happening today?” Mr. Putin said. “That is what de-Nazification is in our understanding. We have to get rid of those people who maintain this concept, and support this practice, and try to preserve it.”

One of the Ukrainian units that have been fighting against Russia in its current war, the Azov Batallion, has been accused of harbouring a neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideology. Many members have been photographed posing alongside flags displaying Nazi imagery.

But many scholars and institutions that commemorate the Holocaust, such as Israel’s main Holocaust memorial museum Yad Vashem, have criticized the idea that Ukraine as a whole is overrun by neo-Nazis.

Trudeau Says Canada Will Stand With Ukraine

When asked by a reporter if the incident in Parliament had created “hardship for an ally,” Mr. Trudeau said Mr. Putin was using the incident to “engage in” propaganda.

The prime minister added that Mr. Putin breached Ukraine’s sovereignty when he invaded back in February 2022 and, by doing so, violated the rules-based international order that “underpins the safety, the security of all of us, living in free democracies around the world.”

“Canada stands with Ukraine, not just because we are friends to Ukraine, but because the rules-based order and the system of laws of the UN Charter protect all of us, not just Ukrainians,” he added.

Mr. Trudeau also criticized the Conservative Party for voting against a free trade agreement with Ukraine because the wording of the bill promoted carbon taxes, saying the party had “fallen prey to Russian disinformation.”

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre told reporters on Feb. 7 that the Liberals “never should have tried to divide Canadians on Ukraine by forcing the carbon tax into that agreement.”