Moscow bans top Canadian officials, accuses them of ‘anti-Russian’ activities

The Russian foreign ministry has banned a number of Canadian officials — including Justice Minister David Lametti — from travelling to that country, citing what it claims are “anti-Russian” activities.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the ministry said Lametti, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc and a number of government officials — including the top bureaucrat at the Department of National Defence, Jodi Thomas — will be barred from travelling to Russia because they have shown “inappropriate and counterproductive activity in support of the ultra-nationalist regime” in Ukraine and other “Russophobic forces” in the Baltic states.

The foreign ministry said the nine people banned — which also include Marci Surkes, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Rear-Admiral Scott Bishop, the commander of Canadian Forces Intelligence Command — have “contributed to the degradation of bilateral relations” and have interfered in internal Russian affairs.

Canada-Russia relations have deteriorated in recent years. Canada has levelled sanctions against people at the centre of power in Moscow over the illegal annexation of Crimea and its treatment of dissidents like popular opposition figure Alexey Navalny, among other things.

In March, Canada imposed sanctions on nine high-ranking Russian officials for “gross and systematic human rights abuses,” including the attempted assassination and subsequent jailing of Navalny.

Navalny, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s main political opponents, was poisoned last summer with the nerve agent Novichok.

Justice Minister David Lametti delivers his opening remarks during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday May 7, 2021. Lametti has been banned from travelling to Russia. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

He was treated in a hospital in Berlin but was subsequently imprisoned and sentenced to two years behind bars upon returning to Russia on what are widely seen as politically-motivated charges.

Navalny and his supporters have accused Putin of ordering the poisoning. The Kremlin has denied the accusation.

The U.S. and the European Union also have levelled sanctions over Russia’s pursuit of Navalny.

In its statement detailing the travel ban, the Russian foreign ministry said Canada has been promoting “far-fetched” theories about Navalny, who they say was legitimately “convicted of illegal acts.”

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