The Ukrainian Canadian Congress is urging Ottawa to stiffen sanctions against Moscow and suspend travel visas for Russians, expel the country’s envoy and designate the Russian Federation as a state supporter of terrorism.
In testimony before the House of Commons foreign affairs committee on Wednesday, UCC executive director and chief executive officer Ihor Michalchyshyn also repeated his organization’s call for the Canadian government to revoke sanction exemptions that enable Russian Gazprom turbines to be imported, repaired at Siemens Energy’s factory in Montreal and exported back to Europe.
Mr. Michalchyshyn said the $500-million Canada had allocated to Kyiv for military and security support earlier this year has already been spent and urged the government to “support a substantial increase in Canadian military assistance to Ukraine.”
Russia’s military assault on Ukraine is in its seventh month. More than six million Ukrainians have fled the country as refugees and many thousands have died. The Kyiv School of Economics recently estimated the damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure exceeds US$113-billion
Canada’s foreign affairs committee was holding hearings on the controversial July decision by the Trudeau government to allow up to six Russian pipeline turbines to be shipped to a facility in Montreal, repaired and re-exported back to Europe. Ottawa has argued that this sanctions exemption eliminated a pretext for Moscow to blame Canada for reducing or stopping deliveries of natural gas to Europe.
In June, Gazprom cited the delayed return of a Gazprom turbine in Canada as the reason it decided to cut the flow of natural gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to 40-per-cent capacity. Nord Stream 1′s majority shareholder is Gazprom and Gazprom’s majority owner is the Russian government.
The first turbine, originally stranded by sanctions in Canada, has since been sent back to Germany but it has not yet been delivered to Gazprom operations in Russia.
Last week, Russia shut down the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which ships natural gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany, citing the need for repairs. This came after a decision by Group of Seven countries to impose a price cap on Russian oil to restrict the revenue flowing to Moscow’s coffers.
On Monday, Russia announced gas supplies to Europe will not resume until Western sanctions against Moscow are lifted.
German cities have already begun to implement energy-saving measures. Some are turning off spotlights at monuments and shutting down fountains. Hanover is one of the first large cities to turn off hot water in public buildings.
Critics for the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Québécois said they don’t understand why the Liberal government hasn’t revoked the turbines waiver given Russia’s refusal to supply gas to Europe.
“Why on Earth would we trust that [Vladimir] Putin will do what he said … He is clearly weaponizing energy,” NDP MP Heather McPherson said. “Now that he and his government have made it clear that they will not be shipping the gas to Germany, I can’t get my head around why the government fails to revoke that waiver.”
Mr. Michalchyshyn said Canada needs to respond to Russia’s blackmail and revoke the export permits of the six Gazprom turbines, impose new sanctions, including suspending travel visas for Russians, and declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. He said Ottawa should also expel Russia’s ambassador.
“It is our position that the Russian embassy is a security threat to Canadians and that our government should be forceful in responding to that threat,” Orest Zakydalsky, UCC senior political adviser, told MPs.
Asked for comment, the Russian embassy in Ottawa said Moscow’s envoy, Oleg Stepanov, laughed at the UCC’s recommendations.
“It’s out of this world,” Mr. Stepanov said in a statement provided the embassy.
Balkan Devlen, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute think tank, said what would really help European partners is exporting liquefied natural gas to the energy-starved continent. Canada’s natural-gas industry has said uncertainty over whether new pipeline infrastructure would be approved is a hindrance to investment in LNG export projects.
Marcus Kolga, another senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, noted that Russia is now reportedly burning off natural gas rather than shipping it through Nord Stream 1.
“A report published by the BBC exposed massive gas flares at Gazprom’s Portovaya compression station near the Russian starting point of the Nord Stream pipeline,” he said.
“According to that report, $10-million of gas are being burned off by Gazprom each day – gas which could otherwise be pumped through Nord Stream to Germany and Europe, or through existing pipelines that transit Ukraine and Poland.”
Absent from the hearings was Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, whom opposition MPs had requested be invited.
Ali Ehsassi, the Liberal MP who chairs the foreign affairs committee, said he could not be booked.
“An invitation was extended to Mr. Kuleba, but regrettably he indicated he was unavailable,” Mr. Ehsassi said.
It will still be more than five months before a legal challenge of the Canada government’s turbine decision is heard in court.
Oral arguments in support of an application for judicial review, launched by the Ukrainian World Congress, will be made in Federal Court on Feb. 14, 2023.
The application is asking the court to suspend the decision to issue permits for the import, repair and re-export of up to six turbines – and ultimately quash it. The permit is “unreasonable, unjustifiable, and contrary to the stated purpose of Canada’s sanction regime,” the legal challenge said.
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