An alleged Nazi war criminal who was charged by Russia with genocide earlier this month has died in Canada at the age of 93, his lawyer said Thursday.
Vladimir Katriuk passed away last week, Orest Rudzik told Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper. News of Katriuk's death emerged several hours after Canada's 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.
Rudzik told the Globe and Mail that Katriuk had dealt with "years of unwarranted harassment, media not excepted ... I'm glad he's at peace. He'd been ailing for a long time."
Russia had charged Katriuk 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 troopers, between 1942 and 1944. He had denied the accusations against him.
The Russian Embassy in Ottawa had called on Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to support a criminal case against Katriuk. The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, a law-enforcement body that reports only to Russian President Vladimir Putin, called on Canada to deliver Katriuk to Moscow so he could be tried.
Harper's government ignored the request, saying it will never recognize Moscow's annexation of Crimea and its interference in Ukraine.
A study published in 2012 alleged Katriuk was a key participant in the Khatyn massacre. The article said a man with Katriuk's name lay in wait 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 attributed those 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 the province of Quebec, working as a beekeeper. He had most recently lived south of Montreal, near the U.S. border.
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 government decided not to revoke his citizenship.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.