2 police forces in GTA probe possible hate crimes involving Ukrainian flags, damaged vehicles

Two police forces in the Greater Toronto Area say they are investigating potential hate crimes involving Ukrainian flags and the incidents may be linked.

Markham man, 32, arrested and charged in 1 incident in Vaughan, York Regional Police say

In Toronto, police are investigating after an Etobicoke man reported his tires had been slashed and a Ukrainian flag that had been affixed to his SUV was shoved into its tailpipe. (CBC)

Two police forces in the Greater Toronto Area say they are investigating potential hate crimes involving Ukrainian flags that may be connected.

In Vaughan, York Regional Police have charged a Markham man, 32, with mischief under $5,000 after what was reported as a possible road rage incident.

Police said in a news release on Monday that officers found out that a person was driving in the area of Bathurst Street and Steeles Avenue on Saturday at about 6:30 p.m. when a red Range Rover cut the person off and stopped in the middle of a lane of traffic. 

A man got out of the Range Rover and ripped a Ukrainian flag off the person's vehicle then smashed one of the vehicle's windows. The man was later arrested and charged.

"Officers also learned that the suspect may be involved in at least one other incident in the City of Toronto," police said in the release.

In Toronto, meanwhile, police say they are investigating a possible hate crime after an Etobicoke man reported that someone had slashed his tires and a Ukrainian flag he's put on his SUV was shoved into its tailpipe.

Wasyl Moskal says his Ukrainian flag was stuffed into the tailpipe of his SUV and tires on his cars were slashed over the weekend in the driveway of his Etobicoke home. (CBC)

Wasyl Moskal, who moved to Canada from Ukraine when he was 10, told CBC News on Monday that he and his family were at a rally in downtown Toronto on Sunday to protest against the Russian invasion.

Not long after returning home, Moskal decided to go get gas — and while he was there, another customer pointed out that the Ukrainian flag had been shoved into the tailpipe.

Moskal said he was angry, but dismissed the incident as kids being stupid. Then he woke up the next morning to find the tires had been slashed on both vehicles in the family's driveway.

"I'm sure this is just one crazy lunatic. Unfortunately, those exist," he said. "[The flag] will continue to fly. It is not coming down."

In an email to CBC News on Monday, Toronto police spokesperson Connie Osborne confirmed that police are investigating the incident.

"This is in the early stages of the investigation and our Hate Crime Unit has been notified and will be engaged in the investigation," she said. "It is being treated as a suspected hate crime."

In the interim, Moskal said he has put up security cameras on his property. He is also urging Canadians to be vocal about their support of Ukraine's fight.

"This is the least we can do. There's people dying there,' he said. "So me keeping my flag up, costing me a couple of thousand dollars worth of tires, it's nothing compared to what's going on there."

Thousands of people marched downtown during Sunday's event, which was billed as a "Mega March for Ukraine" and organized by the Toronto branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. Speakers addressed thousands of people who gathered in Nathan Phillips Square.

Chrystia Freeland, Canada's deputy prime minister and a Toronto MP who walked at the front of the march, told the rally that Ukraine needs weapons and ammunition to fend off Russia's invasion.

"The Ukrainians are making such a brave stand but they need weapons to fight this fight," Freeland said.