Ukrainian-born beekeeper, who was charged with genocide in absentia by Russia for alleged involvement in 1943 Khatyn massacre, dies after long illness.
The second most wanted man on the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s list of Nazi war criminals has died at 93 after a long illness, his lawyer has said.
News of Vladimir Katriuk’s death emerged several hours after the Canadian Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said Ottawa should take the necessary steps to ensure he be held accountable if he were found guilty of war crimes.
Russia charged Katriuk with genocide this month 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 Canadian 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 President Vladimir Putin, called on Canada to deliver Katriuk to Moscow so he could be tried for alleged war crimes.
Canada ignored the request and said it would never recognise 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. 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, it said.
“One witness stated that 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,” the study by Lund University historian Per Anders Rudling says.
Rudling, whose research was published in 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 moving 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 beekeeper.
In 1999, Canada’s federal court ruled Katriuk obtained Canadian citizenship under false pretences, 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.