NEIL Findlay is far from a soldier in Vladimir Putin’s information wars. But the Labour MSP last week - unwittingly - thrust Scotland right on to their front line.

That is because the socialist said something in the Scottish Parliament which tallied perfectly with Kremlin messaging: Mr Findlay on Thursday called the visiting speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Andriy Parubiy, a “racist, fascist Nazi”.

Days later his bombshell remarks - of limited interest at home - are still reverberating around the eastern edge of Europe.

One pro-Putin website, Russkaya Vesna or Russian Spring, latched on to Mr Findlay’s Holyrood words as a “moment of truth”. Another headlined: “Scotland has found the true title of Parubiy the neo-nazi.”

Russia has been fighting a slow-burning proxy war in eastern Ukraine since Mr Parubiy and a host of others overthrew the regime of Kremlin favourite Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.

Mr Putin’s government has annexed the largely Russian-speaking peninsula of Crimea and supports two breakaway regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine. More than 10,000 people have died in fighting.

Russia and its proxies say Mr Yanukovych was ousted in a “far-right coup”. And Mr Parubiy - who was a leading ultra-nationalist before shifting to the political centre a decade and a half ago - provides them with a useful bete noire.

Ukraine was not happy with Mr Findlay. Its ambassador in London, Natalia Galibarenko, has written to him about what she called his “offending and groundless comments”.

The Labour MSP, Ms Galibarenko rather diplomatically hinted, had been duped.

She wrote: “Today one of the major tasks of Russian propaganda is to convince the world that this country is ruled by far-right extremists.

“Unfortunately not only ordinary citizens but members of parliaments have become victims of Russian disinformation.”

She told Mr Findlay his words underlined “how much work lies ahead of us to cure people’s minds from the Kremlin’s hysteria and twisted reality.”

Mr Findlay’s Holyrood intervention came after Russian state propaganda vehicles, such as Sputnik, had amplified messages about Mr Parubiy’s far-right background in France.

Mr Findlay had no intention of inspiring internet polemics in a former Soviet conflict and does not follow Russian propaganda. He wanted, he told The Herald, to make a point about the way visiting dignitaries were routinely applauded without MSPs really knowing who they were.

He said: “That was the sole intention behind my intervention. It was nothing to do with the past or the present of the region.”

Mr Findlay said Mr Parubiy held “despicable views”. However, his claims refer to the Ukrainian politician’s past rather than his present.

Mr Parubiy, a pro-independence activist before the collapse of the Soviet Union, co-founded the Social-National Party of Ukraine in 1991.

The party used the a mirror image of Wolfsangel, a symbol adopted by some SS units during World War Two, and only accepted ethnic Ukrainians as members. It failed to make any political headway.

Mr Parubiy’s early party was weighed done by some of baggage of Ukrainian nationalism. He was an admirer of Stepan Bandera, a figure who both fought alongside - and was jailed by - Adolf Hitler’s invading armies.

However, Mr Parubiy has moved firmly in to the mainstream in recent years. His current party in Ukraine’s ever-changing politics is centre-right and pro-EU and supports the country’s Jewish prime minister.

Many Ukraine watchers insist that Mr Parubiy’s past is fair game for critics. But they are also very conscious of just how useful it is for those who wish to portray the current conflict as a replay of World War Two.

Russkaya Vesna, the site which declared Mr Findlay’s remarks as a “moment of truth”, has a masthead draped in Soviet symbols of the Great Patriotic War, including a red “Victory” flag and a gold and black St George’s ribbon, which Russians and others wore to commemorate war dead.

The ribbon has become a symbol of breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine and has been banned by the Kiev government, which in turn has adopted a British-style poppy.

It is not just Mr Parubiy’s personal history that is controversial in Ukraine.

All history is. The speaker had been in Edinburgh to mark Holyrood recognising a great famine of the 1930s, the Holodomor, as genocide. Russkaya Vesna referred to this horror, which cost at least three million lives, as the “so-called” Holodomor

The Integrity Initiative is a network of researchers and journalists seeking to counter Russian propaganda and boost media literacy. Its spokesman stressed the Kremlin had long tried to “slander” the current Ukrainian government as fascist.

He added: “Putin’s authoritarian, militaristic, nationalistic regime is far closer to fascism. Ukraine does have far-right radicals but they get a negligible share of the vote. The history of Ukrainian nationalism is more complex than ‘they collaborated with the Nazis’.”

SNP MP Chris Law, who visited Ukraine last month, echoed that view. Reacting to Mr Findlay’s remarks, he said: “At the end of the day, this will only serve the Kremlin.