MONTREAL (AP) — Vladimir Katriuk, the man who held the No. 2 spot on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of most wanted Nazi war criminals, has died, his lawyer said Thursday. He was 93.
Katriuk passed away last week after a long illness, Orest Rudzik said.
News of Katriuk’s death emerged several hours after the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said Ottawa should take the necessary steps to ensure that he be held accountable if he were found guilty of war crimes committed in collaboration with the Nazis.
Russia charged Katriuk earlier this month with genocide in connection with the 1943 killing of civilians in Khatyn, now part of Belarus. According to war reports, Katriuk was a member of a Ukrainian battalion of the SS, the elite Nazi storm troops, between 1942 and 1944. He had denied the accusations against him.
The Russian Embassy in Ottawa called on the Harper government a few weeks ago to support a criminal case against Katriuk. The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, a law-enforcement body that reports only to Putin, called on Canada to deliver Katriuk to Moscow so he can be tried for alleged war crimes.
Harper’s Conservative government ignored the request, saying it will never recognize Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and its interference in Ukraine.
A study three years ago alleged Katriuk was a key participant in a village massacre during the Second World War in what is now known as Belarus.
The article said a man with Katriuk’s name lay in wait in March 1943 outside a barn that had been set ablaze, operating a machine-gun and firing on civilians as they tried to flee the burning building.
“One witness stated that Volodymyr Katriuk was a particularly active participant in the atrocity: he reportedly lay behind the stationary machine-gun, firing rounds on anyone attempting to escape the flames,” said the article, authored by Lund University historian Per Anders Rudling.
Rudling, whose research was published in the spring 2012 issue of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, attributed these details to KGB interrogations released for the first time in 2008.
Katriuk allegedly deserted his SS unit when it moved to France from eastern Europe in 1944. He lived in Paris before immigrating to Canada in 1951, according to court documents.
He later became a Canadian citizen and lived with his French-born wife in Ontario, working as a bee-keeper.
In 1999, Canada’s Federal Court ruled Katriuk obtained Canadian citizenship under false pretenses by not telling authorities about his collaboration with the Nazis but could find no evidence he committed atrocities. In 2007, the Harper cabinet decided not to revoke his citizenship.
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