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Canada's Ukrainian community urges Trudeau not to return Russian gas turbine

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Ukrainians fleeing Russia's invasion arrive in Winnipeg

By Steve Scherer and Rod Nickel

OTTAWA (Reuters) -Canada's Ukrainian community is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to refuse to compromise the country's sanctions against Russia in order to return a turbine that Moscow says is critical for supplying natural gas to Germany.

Russia's state-controlled Gazprom cut the capacity along the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to just 40% of usual levels last month, citing the delayed return of equipment being serviced by Germany's Siemens Energy in Canada.

Canada has one of the world's biggest Ukrainian diasporas outside of countries that border Ukraine and it has successfully pressured Ottawa to impose increasingly strict sanctions against Russia since it invaded Ukraine in February.

Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) national president Alexandra Chyczij urged Trudeau, in a letter on Wednesday, to see through Russia's "obvious ploy" to divide Ukraine's allies.

Ottawa should instead broker a solution that does not involve waiving sanctions, she wrote in the letter, posted on UCC's website.

"Any waiver of Canadian sanctions would be viewed as a capitulation to Russian blackmail and energy terrorism, and would only serve to embolden the Russian terrorist state," Chyczij said.

In an interview, UCC CEO Ihor Michalchyshyn said the group is acting independently and not receiving direction from Kyiv regarding lobbying Ottawa about the turbine.

The Canadian government has not responded to the UCC's letter, he said.

"We have not gotten reassurance of anything, either way," Michalchyshyn said. "That's why we're quite concerned."

A Canadian government source said the Ukrainian government itself opposes the turbine's return.

Trudeau's office had no immediate comment on the letter.

"We will not stop imposing severe costs on the Putin regime while their unjustifiable invasion is ongoing and we will continue to support our European friends and allies," said Ian Cameron, spokesman for Canada's natural resources minister, in a statement.

The Russian embassy in Ottawa said Russia has no role to play in returning the turbine.

"It is a problem between Canada and Germany," the embassy said in a statement. "We would welcome the release of the turbine which could help to restore gas flow to Europe."

The technical problem with the turbine is merely a Russian pretext, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said last week.

Canada, alongside its Western allies, has issued sweeping sanctions on Russia after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine in what the Kremlin calls a "special military operation."

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Steve Scherer in Ottawa;Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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