June 15, 2023 By Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Moscow has again summoned Canada’s top diplomat in Russia, this time over the federal Liberal government’s seizure of a massive Russian cargo plane.
Russia said it summoned Canadian charge d’affaires Brian Ebel to tell him that Ottawa’s plans risk “the most serious repercussions.”
The summons came two days after Moscow warned relations with Canada were “on the verge of being severed” over the issue, and three months after the Kremlin summoned the same diplomat over Foreign Minister Melanie Joly’s remarks about regime change in Russia.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Kyiv, Ukraine, on the weekend, where he announced that Canada officially seized an airplane that had been sitting on the tarmac at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport since February 2022.
In an English-language statement posted Thursday, Moscow said the move “amounts to an attempt at undisguised robbery” and that the plane has been “seized in a disgraceful manner,” as Ottawa moves to transfer the plane or its value to Ukraine.
A year ago, Canada became the first G7 country to enact a law that allows Ottawa not just to seize assets held by sanctioned people, but to forfeit the property and divert the proceeds to victims of a sanctioned regime.
The law has never been used, but Trudeau said Ottawa plans to begin the process to forfeit the massive Antonov AN-124 from the Russia firm Volga-Dnepr and divert the funds or the aircraft itself to support Ukraine.
On Thursday, sanctions experts told the House of Commons foreign-affairs committee that Canada should brace for retaliation if it does forfeit the plane, and that Ottawa’s sanctions regime could be expanded.
Elisabeth Braw, a senior fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, testified that Russia has already seized western-owned aircraft leased within the country since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
“If I were a Canadian company, I would worry that I could now become the target of Russian anger, retaliation,” she said.
Braw said western countries need to maintain the rule of law and do everything by the book in order to preserve their economic competitiveness and reputation for stability, even if other countries act arbitrarily and feel no dissuasion from sanctions.
“This is this is frankly a nightmare for diplomats,” she testified. “Regimes can afford to be very arrogant.”
She suggested Canada could start sanctioning family members of Russian oligarchs and those close to the regime, even if many Canadians would have discomfort in punishing someone for their parents’ actions.
Braw also said countries could better target states that are transiting goods between Russia and western countries that are banned from direct dealings.
She noted that western sanctions have been undermined by China and India ramping up trade with Russia.
“We can be very meticulous in designing the sanctions, but there are always countries waiting around the corner to to expand their trading relations,” she said.
“We’re not going to return to that sort of economic power that we had during the Cold War anytime in the near future. This is something we have to bear in mind with all sanctions that we apply.”
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