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'Manifestation of weakness': Zelenskyy condemns Canada for return of Russia-Germany pipeline turbines

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is personally condemning Canada over its decision to grant a Canadian company a "time-limited and revocable permit," allowing them to return turbines from a Russian pipeline that supplies natural gas to Germany.

Zelenskyy said that Canada's decision is about more than wrongly deciding to hand over the turbines, but that it was an "absolutely unacceptable exception to the sanctions regime against Russia."

"If a terrorist state can squeeze out such an exception to sanctions, what exceptions will it want tomorrow or the day after tomorrow? This question is very dangerous," Zelenskyy said in a video and accompanying statement on Monday, that also stated the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs “had to summon Canada's representative to our country.”

"The decision on the exception to sanctions will be perceived in Moscow exclusively as a manifestation of weakness. This is their logic. And now, there can be no doubt that Russia will try not just to limit as much as possible, but to completely shut down the supply of gas to Europe at the most acute moment," he continued. 

The turbines, part of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, had been sent to Siemens Canada in Montreal for repairs, but once the federal government imposed sanctions on Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom, the company was restricted from sending the equipment back.

Canada faced pressure from both Russia and Germany to return the turbines, fearing the risk of further energy instability. Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson's weekend announcement of the permit was met with support from the United States.

The move however, has been strongly condemned by Ukraine, the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada, as well as the federal opposition parties. Those opposed have cautioned that it could set a dangerous precedent, further emboldening Russian President Vladimir Putin's attempts to use European countries' energy dependence as leverage.

"Of course, this decision on one turbine, which leads to many other problems, can still be revised. Russia has never played by the rules in the energy sector and it will not play now unless it sees strength," Zelenskyy said, going on to mention Russia's latest attacks and offering his condolences to the family and friends of latest Ukrainians killed as a result.

The Ukrainian president then pivoted back to the pipeline controversy, saying that: "Against such a background, it's just a shame to see people lacking the courage to honestly deal with one turbine."

Wilkinson has stood by the decision to return the pipeline components, saying when the announcement was made that allied countries "cannot allow" Putin's attempts to use European energy security to sow division amongst allies to be successful. 

"Canada stands with Ukraine against the unprovoked, brutal invasion by Russia and we will continue to work in coordination with allies and partners to impose severe costs on the Russian regime," Wilkinson said.

CTVNews.ca reached out to Wilkinson and Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly’s office asking for comment on Zelenskyy’s remarks, and whether the government was considering Ukraine’s request to reverse course.

In an email natural resources minister spokesperson Keean Nembhard said that he had “nothing further to add from the minister’s original statement.”

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