Claims of grandfather's Nazi past part of Russian smear campaign, Canadian FM says

Chrystia Freeland has found herself on the wrong side of the Russian government since becoming a Canadian politician over four years ago.

March 10, 2017 20:16
2 minute read.
Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin . (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Canada's chief diplomat on Thursday claimed Russia has made her the target of a disinformation campaign after allegations surfaced that her grandfather was a Nazi collaborator operating in Poland during the Second World War, according to The Washington Post

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, said that Moscow's alleged effort to meddle in the affairs of Western democracies fit a pattern that was now aiming its sights on the Canadian government.

“American officials have publicly said and even (German Chancellor) Angela Merkel has publicly said that there were efforts on the Russian side to destabilize Western democracies, and I think it shouldn’t come as a surprise if these same efforts were used against Canada,” Freeland, 49, told Canadian media Thursday.

Allegations that her maternal grandfather, Mikhailo Chomiak, was a Nazi collaborator began to circulate shortly after Freeland's appointment to Canada's top diplomatic role in January of 2017. That's when websites favoring Russian President Vladimir Putin began publishing articles claiming Chomiak was the editor-in-chief of a Ukrainian-language newspaper in 1940's occupied Krakow that distributed anti-Jewish propaganda, according to The Post.

Following the end of WWII, Chomiak immigrated to Canada and became a prominent figure in the Ukrainian-Canadian community. He died in 1984.

Freeland, a former journalist who once served as The Financial Times of London bureau chief in Moscow, has found herself on the wrong side of the Russian government since becoming a politician over four years ago.

Following the invasion of Crimea in 2014, Freeland became one of 13 Canadian officials to be barred from entering Russia in retaliation for Canadian sanctions leveled again the Russian government. Her outspoken support for Ukraine, along with her books exposing influence peddling among Russia's elite, has also put her at odds with powerful figures in Moscow. 

Asked for comment about Freeland's allegations, a spokesperson for the Russian embassy in Canada told The Washington Post that he could not confirm nor deny the accusations levied against Chomiak. He added, however, that  “Nazism and its hateful ideology, Nazi collaborators and followers should be unequivocally condemned.”

The claims against Freeland's grandfather ostensibly originate from her uncle, a retired academic, who acknowledged in an article published several years ago that Chomiak had worked for a publication that spread anti-Semitic propaganda, but he never signed anything that appeared in the paper, The Washington Post added.

Freeland, through a spokesperson, later stated she supported her uncle's efforts to study “this difficult chapter in her late grandfather’s life.”

Questioned about the allegations concerning her grandfather's past, Freeland's office responded by saying: “People should be questioning where this information comes from and the motivations behind it,” according to Canadian daily The Globe and Mail.

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