Russia’s ambassador to Canada says the RCMP has warned that his diplomats’ safety may be at risk as tensions grow over Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Georgiy Mamedov told reporters Tuesday that the Russian embassy in Ottawa received a warning about security concerns “several days ago” from the RCMP. News of the warning comes shortly after an employee of the embassy was stabbed at an apartment building in downtown Ottawa, in an attack the Department of Foreign Affairs has said does not appear to have a geopolitical connection.
“Several days ago we were warned by [the] RCMP – and I have some very good friends there – who warned us that we are in very great danger and that they will take good care of us,” Mr. Mamedov said. He said police were not specific about the possible dangers Russian diplomats might face.
Police have arrested a man in connection with the stabbing, which occurred Friday morning. Mr. Mamedov said he was asked by Canadian officials to convey to the Russian government that the incident had no connection to tensions over Ukraine, an assertion Mr. Mamedov questioned.
“I made note of it. Though I have my doubts,” he said, pointing to the warning the embassy received from the RCMP. Mr. Mamedov added the injured man is recovering at a hospital in Moscow and is not expected to return to Canada. “I won’t risk his life twice,” he said.
The ambassador said other incidents have occurred in recent weeks that have also caused concern to the Russian embassy. He showed reporters a photograph of a poster, which he said was taken in Toronto in early March, depicting a Russian diplomat and some text threatening the diplomat with violence. He said he believes the poster had been put up in an attempt to intimidate the individual, who the ambassador identified as Russia’s consul general in Toronto.
Holding up the image, Mr. Mamedov said the writing on the poster is in Russian, “and it says, you know, ‘smash his face.’ And when I have such photographs, of course I have to be extra vigilant.”
The ambassador said the Department of Foreign Affairs had forwarded information about the poster to police, who indicated they would “do what’s necessary” to keep the consul general safe.
A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the department is aware of the concerns cited by Mr. Mamedov and has been in touch with the Russian embassy.
"Canada takes seriously its obligations under the Vienna Convention to ensure the safety of foreign diplomats in Canada and Canadian police authorities are taking appropriate measures," Béatrice Fénelon wrote in an e-mail. "We have confidence in the authorities to do their work."
The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations says that diplomats must be allowed to work without fear of harassment or coercion.