Another Russian diplomat has left Canada in a departure that his embassy says is a routine posting change – one taking place the same month as news broke that a Canadian sailor has been charged with spying.
Dmitry Gerasimov, a consular officer with the Russian government’s office in Toronto, left in January, his embassy said Monday.
He is the second diplomat that the Russian embassy in Canada acknowledges has quit this country in January.
The other, as The Globe and Mail reported last week, was Colonel Sergey Zhukov, the defence attaché for the Russian government in Ottawa.
In both cases, the Russian embassy says the departing diplomats had merely reached the end of their assigned tenure in Canada. Col. Zhukov had worked here several years and Mr. Gerasimov, an embassy official said, had served in Canada “three or four years.”
All totalled, six Russian diplomats that have been dropped from Ottawa’s list of recognized foreign representatives in the last 11 days. It’s not clear which, if any, of recent these exits can be tied to the spy controversy.
On Jan. 16, Canadian naval intelligence officer Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Paul Delisle was charged under Canada's Security of Information Act with passing government secrets to foreign interests. He faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted.
The Harper government has not publicly identified the foreign power that it believes benefitted from the alleged spying.
The Globe and Mail reported Jan. 20, however, that it had learned that more than one Russian diplomat was asked to leave Canada in connection with spy charges laid against SLt. Delisle.
The Russian government has dismissed any connection between recent diplomatic departures from Canada and the Delisle case, saying several staffers left far in advance of the sailor's arrest.
It says the spate of six departures recently is not unusual. The number of Russian foreign representatives recognized by Ottawa has dropped to 100 from 106, according to the daily list Monday.
The embassy has never offered a clear explanation for the departure of one of the staffers – Tatiana Steklova – whose name disappeared from the Foreign Affairs list on Jan. 19.
The Canadian government has refused to discuss diplomatic fallout in the spy case.
One former senior Canadian government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Harper government has avoided making a public stink about the spying in order to preserve the relationship with Russia. “Both sides are working hard to ensure the relationship over the longer term is not adversely affected,” the ex-official said.