Russia expels Canadian diplomat from Moscow
Andrea Janus, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, April 22, 2014 1:26PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 22, 2014 5:12PM EDT
Russia has expelled a Canadian diplomat from Moscow, government sources confirm to CTV News, after Canada forced out a Russian military attaché earlier this month over the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
The diplomat, identified as Margarita Atanasov, serves as Canada’s First Secretary of the immigration section at the Canadian Embassy in the Russian capital. She is to leave Russia within 14 days, CTV’s Mercedes Stephenson reported.
Atanasov’s expulsion from Russia comes about two weeks after Canada expelled assistant military attaché Lieut.-Col. Yury Bezler from Ottawa.
“It’s not uncommon to see this sort of tit-for-tat, one-for-one,” Stephenson said.
Georgiy Mamedov, Russia’s ambassador to Canada, was asked about the move to expel Atanasov after he delivered a speech at the Empire Club in Toronto.
“Because first it was our guy who was expelled from Ottawa,” Mamedov told reporters as they followed him out of the room. “So it’s a response.”
Mamedov later told BNN that “no reason” was given for the Russian diplomat’s expulsion.
“No reason associated with his work,” Mamedov said.
Mamedov called such sanctions “stupid,” during a question-and-answer session that followed his speech, and accused the West of starting the one-for-one process of diplomatic retribution.
“There is a certain diplomatic dance where everybody reciprocates. I think it’s stupid,” Mamedov said. “We’re against sanctions. We didn’t start that.”
Canada has announced a series of sanctions over the last several weeks in response to Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine. Canada has cancelled previously scheduled joint military and economic programs with Russia, and expelled Russian soldiers that had been training here.
Last week, the government announced it would send six CF-18 jet fighters to join NATO’s operations in eastern Europe and as many as 20 military personnel to the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels. NATO has ramped up its presence in eastern Europe in response to ongoing Russian interference in eastern Ukraine after the annexation of Crimea earlier this year.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is also visiting eastern European countries to discuss the situation in Ukraine. On Tuesday, he visited with Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek.
"We have advocated for a firm response to Russia's involvement, and intimidation, in Ukraine. But I think we have a moral responsibility to stand particularly with our NATO allies and our friends and allies,” Baird said at a joint news conference with Zaoralek.
"We want the same thing for the people of Ukraine: peace, prosperity, security and freedom."
During his speech, the Russian ambassador called the anti-government protests in Ukraine “a coup,” but said Russia wants nothing more than to see a united and independent Ukraine.
“I’m absolutely convinced that common sense will prevail,” Mamedov said. “We will cut through this suspicion and together we will help Ukrainians come together and live happily and be independent.”
Mamedov drew jeers from the crowd for some of his statements, including his assertion that “whether you like it or not there is only one legitimate president in Ukraine according to the Ukrainian constitution: Viktor Yanukovych.”
Yanukovych fled Ukraine after anti-government protests turned violent. The Ukrainian Parliament dissolved the country’s constitutional court and appointed an interim president.