Trudeau apologizes for Russia hockey joke
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has apologized for joking that Russia might intervene in the Ukraine due to its disappointing result in men’s Olympic hockey.
Trudeau visited the Ukrainian embassy in Ottawa Tuesday to personally apologize to ambassador Vadym Prystaiko, as well as to Paul Grod, the president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.
When asked by reporters later Tuesday about why he waited a full day to apologize, Trudeau explained that he wanted to talk directly to leaders in Ukrainian community. The Liberal leader’s comments aired on a television program Sunday evening.
“I wanted to make sure that I had the chance to express directly to leaders … how seriously the Liberal party takes the situation in Ukraine,” he said. “And to say I regret my comments about Russia, which made light of some real fears and concerns that Ukrainians have about Russian intervention.”
Trudeau was lambasted for the joke that suggested that Russia may intervene in Ukraine after failing to get a hockey medal at the Sochi Olympics. He made the comment during an interview with a humour-tinged Radio-Canada television program.
Trudeau was asked on the show what Canada could do about the violence and unrest in Ukraine due to anti-government protests.
"It's very worrisome," Trudeau said." Especially since Russia lost in hockey, they will be in a bad mood. We are afraid of a Russian intervention in Ukraine."
Prystaiko had called on Trudeau to apologize, telling CTV’s Power Play that the remark was “inappropriate.”
"You have to be extremely careful when you talk about 82 people who died fighting … for their future and everyone's in danger," Prystaiko said Monday. "You're just sitting in a nice room, and talking about things in such a light manner; it's just inappropriate."
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said Trudeau’s joke was “flippant,” “distasteful” and “offensive.”
Dozens of civilians have been killed during protests in Ukraine, which became increasingly violent over the past three months. Many protesters were beaten, shot and wounded in Kyiv’s Independence Square, where thousands of people staged daily demonstrations.
The country’s future is now uncertain as ousted President Viktor Yanukovych remains in hiding. The Ukrainian parliament delayed the formation of a new government until Thursday due to political tensions.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with members of the Ukrainian-Canadian community on Tuesday to discuss “the next steps in Canada's ongoing commitment to support the Ukrainian people at this delicate time in their history.”
It was also announced that Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird would travel to Kyiv this week to get a first-hand look at the ongoing situation in the country. The Canadian government has also pledged funding for medical aid for Ukrainian activists.
Trudeau said Tuesday that the Liberal party has been calling on the Conservative government to impose harsher sanctions on Yanukovych and his allies.