Mélanie Joly invites commission to investigate whether Ottawa was aware of Russian threat to Ukrainian embassy staff

Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly speaks at a press conference during a meeting with her colleagues from the Baltic region in Quebec City on June 2.Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said she would welcome an inquiry into whether before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Ottawa knew that locally hired personnel from the Kiev embassy could be on Russian target lists, but did not inform them.

“We need to get to the bottom of this,” she told the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, after being peppered with questions about a Globe and Mail report on the controversy.

The report said that despite the Ministry of Global Affairs receiving information confirming that Russia was planning to go to war against its neighbor, and that Ukrainians working for the Canadian embassy were likely on lists of people Moscow was planning on killing. to hunt, Ottawa told Canadian embassy officials to withhold this information.

In a statement released via Twitter later Thursday, Ms Joly said she would invite the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) to study the matter. This organization, which includes MPs from all major parties as well as some senators, is not a committee of parliament. The reports are sent to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Prime Minister has the ability to edit information for national security reasons.

“I understand Canadians want to shed light on this,” Ms Joly said. “I want MPs to be informed and if the National Security and Intelligence Committee of MPs wants to study this matter, they will have my full support and cooperation.”

Stephanie Carvin, an associate professor of international relations at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs and a former national security analyst, said she’s not sure NSICOP is the right body to look into. She said the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is currently studying Global Affairs, could investigate the matter. “In theory, NICOP could look into this, but it’s a very minor issue. I’m not sure if it’s an issue it would like to report on.”

Ms. Joly was pressured during the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee by Conservative MP Garnett Genuis and NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson about exactly what she knew before the Russian military attack on Ukraine on February 24.

She said she was aware of intelligence reports made public by the US before the Russian invasion of Ukraine that Moscow had lists of people they planned to detain or kill, but she did not know of any Ukrainians who had been sent before the Canadian invasion. embassy and those on these lists.

“There were some lists specifically targeting Ukrainian people in Ukraine and of course we were working on these targets,” she said.

As to whether local staff at the Canadian embassy were threatened, Ms Joly told the commission: “I didn’t have that information. My team didn’t have that information. You heard the deputy. The department did not have that information.

“We – myself, my political staff and Global Affairs Canada, according to what the deputy has just mentioned – we had no information that there were lists specifically targeting Canadian diplomats and locally involved personnel in Kiev.”

Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly says she was unaware that Kiev embassy staff were threatened by Russia

The Globe and Mail reported earlier this week that after receiving information from Five Eyes that Ukrainian embassy personnel may be on Russian lists, Canadian diplomats received clear instructions from Ottawa on how to proceed: do not share information with Ukrainian personnel. , and don’t help them flee. The Five Eyes is an intelligence-sharing alliance that includes Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand.

In the weeks since the intelligence was received, three diplomatic sources said Canadian embassy staffers were evacuated, first to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, on February 12, and then to Poland on February 24, hours after the start of the Russian invasion. The Ukrainian staffers were left in Kiev, fearful for their lives and angry at how they had been treated, the sources said. The Globe did not cite the sources as they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

In an interview on CBC’s, Ms Joly did not directly answer questions about whether she felt The Globe’s reporting was correct. Power and politics on August 3 or in a heated exchange at the committee meeting on Thursday.

She said in the CBC interview that she visited locally involved personnel in Kiev in January and then spoke to them again in February when the Russians invaded. She knew they were in danger, she said.

“The Canadian government was there and upheld our moral responsibility to the people who helped us,” the minister said.

“It was of the utmost importance to my team and my department that they would be protected.”

But diplomatic sources from The Globe said Ukrainian staff feared for their lives in January after learning of the Russian target lists of US embassy staff. The group prepared a presentation for senior Global Affairs staff in which they felt the risks they felt and asked to be evacuated and work remotely with Canadian diplomats.

Several Ukrainian staffers have high public profiles, a source said, and are likely to be Russian targets. Diplomats interviewed by The Globe say that if Ms Joly spoke to Ukrainian staff in January, she should have been aware of their terror and their request to flee.

Separately, Larisa Galadza, Canada’s ambassador to Ukraine, said on Twitter on Thursday that she met with staff at the Canadian embassy in Kiev “to assure them that we did not have a list, nor were we aware of a list, aimed at the locally involved employees of our embassy.”

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