Russia’s ambassador to Canada says Moscow has an agreement with the Canadian government to “keep quiet” about any connection between his country and the case of a naval intelligence officer accused of spying.
“I have a deal with your people to keep quiet,” Ambassador Georgiy Mamedov told CTV News during a brief conversation at a Russian embassy event Thursday.
He said that one day the “seal of silence” might be lifted.
Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Delisle is in custody after being charged in January with passing secrets to foreign interests. The sailor faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted.
His next court appearance is Feb. 28, at which time a bail hearing date is expected to be set. He has not yet entered a plea.
The Globe and Mail has reported that Canada asked more than one Russian diplomat to leave in connection with the Delisle case.
The Russian government has denied this, saying that several envoys who left recently did so well before the sailor was arrested.
Six Russian diplomats have quit Canada recently, several of them in January after the Delisle case became public.
Asked if SLt. Delisle was spying for the Russians, Mr. Mamedov said: “I don’t know because I am not the guy who controls humint [human intelligence]”
Asked which diplomats were asked to leave by Canada, the ambassador declined comment.
“I am not at liberty to discuss because I don’t want to influence your judicial process.”
He also suggested it’s possible Russia’s role in the Delisle case will never be known.
“It will depend on the entire interests of our bilateral relations because you are interested in good relations with the Russians.”
He suggested contacting the Canadian government to learn more. “If you want your answer you have to ask Foreign Affairs.”
A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird declined comment because the Delisle matter is before the courts.
Foreign affairs experts have said Canada is being careful to avoid turning the spy affair into a diplomatic incident in order to avoid tit-for-tat expulsions of Canadian envoys in Moscow.
Exactly what secrets SLt. Delisle allegedly leaked is not known.
SLt. Delisle spent much of the last decade working in sensitive military offices.
His most recent posting was at the Trinity communication and surveillance centre in Halifax, an ultra-secure nerve centre for naval intelligence.
His previous postings include the Chief of Defence Intelligence group in Ottawa as well as the Strategic Joint Staff, a central office within the military.
SLt. Delisle later moved to the Canadian Forces Joint Headquarters, also in Kingston, before returning to Halifax in 2010, ending up at Trinity in August, 2011.
Six Russian diplomats have left Canada in recent weeks and months.
Those who left in January include military attaché Colonel Sergey Zhukov and consular officer Dmitry Gerasimov.
Other departing diplomats include deputy military attaché Lieutenant Colonel Dmitry Fedorchatenko, attaché Konstantin Kolpakov and technical staffers Mikhail Nikiforov and Tatiana Steklova.