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Russian ambassador claims Canada a ‘very dangerous country’ to visit

‘Russian-Canadian relations are now in a deep freeze’
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The Russian flag flies outside the Embassy of the Russian Federation to Canada in Ottawa on Monday, March 26, 2018. Russia’s ambassador in Ottawa says Canada is a “very dangerous country” for Russians to visit. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Russia’s ambassador in Ottawa claims Canada is unsafe for his compatriots to visit.

“Canada today is a very dangerous country for Russian citizens,” Oleg Stepanov said in a Russian-language interview last Friday.

“I would not recommend it for tourism, education or business.”

Stepanov told state news agency RIA Novosti that Canada keeps sanctioning people, which he deems to be an arbitrary response to the conflict in Ukraine.

He also claimed that Russians in Canada are regularly experiencing racism and bemoaned what he said are daily protests outside of Russia’s Ottawa embassy and its consulates in Montreal and Toronto.

“Russian-Canadian relations are now in a deep freeze,” Stepanov was quoted as saying.

He took aim at Canada’s intent to forfeit US$26 million held by a firm owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, which would be the first case under a new law that allows Ottawa to take possession of funds from sanctioned people and divert them to victims of wrongdoing.

As of late January, Ottawa had yet to actually file its court application. Stepanov said the idea amounts to an attack on property rights.

However, Stepanov added that most Canadians treat Russians well, and Moscow’s travel advisory for Canada only warns of street gangs and a “rather harsh climate.”

He also claimed that Russia has been unable to open a consulate in Vancouver. Global Affairs Canada has been asked to respond.

Stepanov said Russia is open to dialogue with Canada if it stops echoing U.S. policy, but Ottawa says change will only happen when Russia ends its invasion of Ukraine, and compensates that country for losses.

Earlier this year, a Russian woman living in Ottawa, Elena Pushkareva, said Stepanov denied her consular services over claims that her participation in a pro-democracy Facebook group amounted to a security risk.

Last year, Russia summoned Canada’s ambassador in Moscow over claims the RCMP and Global Affairs inadequately responded to security concerns, such as security footage that suggests someone threw a Molotov cocktail over the fence of the Ottawa embassy.

The Trudeau government has accused Russia of sowing chaos globally and summoned Stepanov over social media posts against LGBTQ people.

Last summer, a bicycle painted blue and yellow sat outside the embassy for weeks until a group spray-painted it black on Aug. 16.

The group also painted a large Z on the sidewalk and lamppost, which is a sign indicating support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. One passerby posted photos of the group, which appeared to have arrived on the scene in a car with diplomatic plates.

Stepanov’s interview last week called out the Canadian public for taking photos of diplomatic cars.

—Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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