Canada's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland was photographed on Sunday holding a scarf promoting a far-right Ukrainian Nationalist movement linked to Neo-Nazis and extremism.
Freeland or a member of her staff inadvertently shared the photo on her own social media accounts, apparently ignorant of the radical far-right movement the scarf represents. The image shows Freeland holding the red and black flag, which reads, "Slavia Ukraine!"
Not long after posting the photo, which also showsToronto Mayor John Tory, on her Twitter and Instagram accounts, the posts were deleted and the message was reposted on Twitter with a different photo, in which the scarf was no longer visible.
Scarf's Nazi Ties
According to the True North, the red and black flag has historically represented the Bandera movement in Ukraine. Stepan Bandera was a Nationalist Ukrainian politician during the Second World War who is accused of war crimes and leading atrocities against Jewish and Polish people.
He was an incredibly polarizing political figure in Ukraine, as some viewed him as a national hero who fought for Ukrainian independence. Bandera helped create the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (UPA), an organization that media outlets have described as being "far-right" and "extremist" and who have been characterized as "Neo-Nazis."
In April 2021, Euro News described Bandera and the UPA as Nazi-collaborators and war criminals. "Bandera, Shukhevych, and the UPA are controversial for several reasons. Critics point to the mass killings of up to 100,000 Jews and Poles and the fact that UPA cooperated with Nazi Germany at the beginning of WW2 until it became clear that Nazi Germany wouldn't recognize Ukrainian independence," the outlet noted.
Interestingly, the Ottawa Citizen reported Freeland's grandfather as "a Nazi collaborator" in Ukraine. He was the chief editor of a Nazi propaganda newspaper during the Second World War.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his invasion into Ukraine, the justification he provided, in part, was to "De-Nazify" the country. Putin's war efforts rely on propaganda presenting the Ukrainian government and its allies in the West (like Freeland) as supporting an extremist, far-right Nazi movement.