This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Diplomacy, Canadian-Style

"I understand there was a Canadian passport holder associated in some way with the group. From what I was told, it was several days and they left flowers on departure."
"[That embassy open door represented] a gesture designed to react and to reach out to the people suffering in the turmoil."
"The public stance ministers and the prime minister took during the Maidan events; that Canada stood on the side of those who were protesting for freedom and democracy, and certainly we've never made any apologies for that."
Roman Waschuk, Canadian ambassador in Kyiv, Ukraine
A protester throws a Molotov cocktail during clashes with police in central Kyiv, Ukraine, early Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014.
A protester throws a Molotov cocktail during clashes with police in central Kyiv, Ukraine, early Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014.    THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP Photo/Sergei Grits
"There wasn't much of an obstacle for them to get in. Not much security."
"Canada was sympathizing with the protesters, at the time, more than the government."
"There was no public statement from the Canadian side about this, and it's really interesting what grounds they would use not to say something."
Ukrainian ministry officials, anonymous

"Generally speaking in Ukrainian public opinion, as well in the Ukraine government of that time, there was a common understanding that Canadian sympathies are on the side of the protesters, pro-European, pro-democratic."
Marko Shevchenko, Ukraine Charges d'Affaires to Canada 

"You could say events are still raw because Crimea was annexed and eastern Ukraine was invaded. And as far as I can tell, the only country that has stood side-by-side with Ukraine has been Canada, even during the Maidan by closing the embassy in Moscow."
"These are the right things to do. In finding that friendship, you keep finding the strength to move forward."
Marko Suprun, Winnipeg, Globe and Mail reporter in Kyiv, 2014

He was there, on the streets of Kyiv when the shooting was taking place. "I just had to help. It's still kind of hard to talk about", said Marko Suprun. At the time he decided he would become more involved than a journalist generally would. Deciding to take a break in writing his dispatches long enough to help carry the wounded and the dying into a nearby hotel. He remained there to help provide combat first aid training to the Ukrainian volunteers, and to hand out F--kUPutin bracelets in lieu of business cards.

It has now, over a year later, been revealed that when riot police in Kyiv gave chase to protesters, a number of them, one with a Canadian passport, sought haven in the Canadian Embassy, situated close by the Maidan in central Kyiv. As security guards at the Canadian embassy opened the front door to the man holding the Canadian passport, others pushed their way alongside him into the embassy lobby before the door was closed behind them.

None were evicted. This was the height of the violent crackdown against pro-European protesters in February of 2014. The demonstrators who entered the embassy brought with them their sticks and paving stones, the arms with which they faced off against the police chasing them. And, strangely enough for a diplomatic mission the decision was made to give them leave to camp out in the main lobby for a week. Although no one at Foreign Affairs or speaking for the government verifies this.

Initially a criminal investigation was launched by the Government of Ukraine, into the protesters' actions. It was dropped simultaneously to former President Yanukovych leaving Ukraine for shelter in Moscow. In the lobby of the Canadian embassy, wounded protesters were given medical treatment then transferred by ambulance in the midst of the violence, to hospital.  They also used an embassy minivan, later found burned.

As far as then-foreign affairs minister John Baird was concerned about protesters taking over the embassy's reception area, a spokesman on his behalf at the time said they had taken "shelter", were "peaceful and have not caused any damage or harm to staff". And the incident was never alluded to again. The embassy was closed throughout the events that followed, leading to the Russian-leaning president leaving precipitously for Russia.

Dominque Arel, a Ukraine expert at University of Ottawa, stated that Canada was more than an disinterested bystander, and had been a partisan long before the Maidan protests which began in late 2013 before turning violent. One locally-engaged embassy staffer was involved in antigovernment rallies and blogged online statements critical of President Yanukovych. She was subjected to official intimidation, her vehicle was torched and she faced charges of traffic violations.

Not everyone is exactly enraptured and proud of Canada's diplomatic lapse in neutrality on issues evolving in another country. The official political opposition in Canada is grim-faced about all of this, stating their opinion that under this Conservative-led government Canada has gone sadly astray, abandoning its official neutrality for official favouritism. "We're not the considered, intelligent players that we used to be", sourly stated Robert Fowler, a former Canadian diplomat.

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