June 24, 2021

Times of Israel

Lubomyr Luciuk


We always suspected it. We tried to tell reporters, politicians, police investigators, even a few of those ranged against us in the public arena about what we were certain was true — but they wouldn’t believe us. I can’t blame them. There was no hard proof, not in the 1980s, to confirm Soviet agents of influence had initiated “active measures” to undermine the anti-Communist Ukrainian community in the West


Now there is. Code-named Operation Payback, this plan was cynically orchestrated to exploit the understandable desire of the Jewish diaspora to see perpetrators of some of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century — the Nazis — brought to justice. By the late 1960s, quite alarmingly from a Soviet point of view,  Jewish and Ukrainian émigrés had begun to stand together in defense of human rights activists and refuseniks in the USSR. By propagating stories about “thousands” of Nazis supposedly hiding within North America’s Ukrainian and Baltic communities, Moscow’s men effectively fragmented this common front.


These KGB covert operations were outlined candidly in a now-declassified memorandum, dated 18 October 1985. It was drafted by Stepan Mukha, head of Soviet Ukraine’s Committee of State Security, and addressed to Volodymyr Scherbytsky, First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Following consultations with his Russian counterparts, Comrade Mukha wrote, his operatives had so effectively deployed their “operational capabilities” that Washington was “compelled” to create an Office of Special Investigations within the Department of Justice in 1979. To further shape general opinion, polemical tracts denigrating the Ukrainian nationalist movement were circulated widely, including the American Communist Party leader Michael Hanusiak’s, Lest We Forget. The latter was reissued twice. Even I got a copy.


“Considering the positive evolution” of Operation Payback in America, measures “aimed at unfolding a similar campaign in Canada were implemented” in 1980-1985. Materials about the alleged wartime criminality of the ‘Galicia Division’ were “planted” in The Toronto Star and the resulting outrage stoked until Ottawa was “forced” to establish the Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals, headed by Mr. Justice Jules Deschênes, in February 1985. All this skullduggery obliged the Ukrainian diaspora to “divert efforts and funds” to its own defense, weakening its capacity for otherwise challenging Soviet words and deeds. I know this is true. I was there.


Justice Deschênes eventually reported on how “increasingly large and grossly exaggerated figures had been spread” about the number of alleged Nazi war criminals in Canada. After carefully studying the wartime history of the ‘Galicia Division,’ the Commission also concluded it should not be indicted as a group, confirmed its members had been individually screened before admission to Canada and noted that “charges of war crimes against members of the Division had never been substantiated, either in 1950

when they were first preferred, or in 1984 when they were renewed, or before the Commission.” No case could be made against members of the Division for revocation of citizenship or deportation since the Canadian authorities were “fully aware” of the relevant facts in 1950, meaning “admission to Canada was not granted because of any false representation, or fraud, or concealment of material circumstances.”


Despite these definitive findings, allegations about the ‘Galicia Division’ have been sporadically resuscitated. In October 2017, Kiril Kalinin, operating out of the Russian embassy in Ottawa, went further, circulating mendacious tales about the family history of Chrystia Freeland, then Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, while tweeting provocative statements about imagined ‘Nazi war memorials’ in Canada. After his subterfuges were exposed, Kalinin was declared persona non grata and expelled. Yet some journalists studiously ignore all this evidence of Russian interference in our democratic societies. Instead they re-spew the concocted, hateful, and divisive fables Mukha and his minions seeded decades ago, so distracting attention from Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine and the fascistic agenda of Vladimir Putin, the KGB man in the Kremlin. One hopes an informed public and our  security and intelligence services will yet counter those who seek to riven what remains of the Free World.



Lubomyr Luciuk is a Canadian academic and author of books and articles in the field of political geography and Ukrainian history. He is currently a full professor at the Royal Military College of Canada.