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Special meeting of House foreign affairs committee will discuss Russia turbine export

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OTTAWA — A House of Commons committee will hold a special meeting this morning to discuss Canada’s controversial decision to send repaired parts for a Russian natural gas pipeline back to Germany.

The Liberal government is facing mounting pressure over its move to exempt six Siemens Energy turbines, which were serviced in Montreal, from the economic sanctions it levied against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom reduced gas deliveries from its Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which runs to northeastern Germany, by 60 per cent last month, citing turbine-related technical problems.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the decision to deliver the turbines was made so Canada could support European allies that are facing energy crises as Russia constricts access to its oil and gas supply.

Conservative and NDP MPs triggered the meeting of the House of Commons foreign affairs and international development committee to raise their request for a study on the exports.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress called for such a meeting earlier this week, and the Ukraine World Congress is petitioning the Federal Court to uphold the sanctions regime and stop the shipment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 15, 2022.

The Canadian Press

Ukraine criticizes Canada over return of turbines for Russia-Germany pipeline

The Ukrainian government is calling on Canada to reconsider its decision to allow the delivery of turbines from a Russia-Europe natural gas pipeline to Germany, saying it sets a “dangerous precedent” when it comes to sanctions against the Russian regime.

Natural Services Canada Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced on social media Saturday that turbines from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline—which supplies natural gas from Russia to Germany — that had been sent to Montreal for scheduled repairs would be allowed to be returned.

Back in June, Siemens Energy said Canadian sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine meant the company couldn’t return the turbines.

In his recent announcement, Wilkinson said turbine maker Siemens Canada would be granted a “time-limited and revocable permit” to return the equipment — essentially giving it an exemption.

He said delivery was necessary to support “Europe’s ability to access reliable and affordable energy” as it tries to transition away from reliance on Russian oil and gas. The government says it plans to return six turbines.

In a statement Sunday, Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and Energy Ministry expressed their “deep disappointment” in Canada’s decision.

“This dangerous precedent violates international solidarity, goes against the principle of the rule of law and will have only one consequence: it will strengthen Moscow’s sense of impunity,” it read.

In the lead up to Canada’s decision, German vice chancellor Robert Habeck had voiced concerns Russia may shut off deliveries of natural gas to Europe after the planned maintenance.  The warning followed Russia’s previous reduction of natural gas flow to Germany, along with Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

While Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy giant, has blamed the pipeline’s reduction of natural gas to Germany on the repairs in Canada, German leaders have cast doubt on the explanation of technical problems and characterized it instead as a political move.

The Ukrainian government voiced similar concerns in its statement, saying Russia’s threats amounted to “blackmail that has no technical justification.”

“Russia is able to continue to supply gas to Germany in full without this turbine,” it said.

Germany, which is Europe’s largest economy, warned last month it was in a crisis over Russia’s decision to cut the amount of gas flowing through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline by 60 per cent.

Alexandra Chyczij, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, expressed disappointment in Canada’s decision, saying Ottawa is bowing to Russian threats to cut off the gas supply by fulfilling Germany’s request.

“Canada will not only contravene its policy of isolating Russia, it will set a dangerous precedent that will lead to the weakening of the sanctions regime imposed on Russia,” Chyczij said in a statement.

“This decision will ensure that the coffers of the Russian state budget will continue to be filled with European money which will be used to finance Russia’s genocide against the Ukrainian people. ”

Chyczij said Canada was put in the position of deciding whether to fulfill the request of an ally or “hold firm on the sanctions imposed on Gazprom and Nordstream 1.”

Three Conservative MPs also issued a statement on Sunday saying that allowing the equipment’s return undermines the sanctions Canada has imposed on Russia at a time when it should be stepping up as an alternative provider of gas to Europe instead.

“Allowing the return of the gas turbine sets a dangerous precedent of folding to Putin’s blackmail of Europe, and will negatively impact Canada’s standing on the world stage,” reads a joint statement by Tories Michael Chong,  James Bezan and Pierre Paul-Hus.

In light of the criticism over Canada’s decision, Wilkinson’s office pointed to the minister’s earlier statement. It said not only was Germany’s economy vulnerable, but “Germans themselves will be at risk of being unable to heat their homes as winter approaches.”

The statement also noted Canada has levied sanctions against more than 1,600 individuals since Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014.

The same day Wilkinson announced the turbines would be returned, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announced Canada planned to apply a new set of sanctions targeting Russia’s land and pipeline transportation and manufacturing sectors.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 10, 2022.

— With files from The Associated Press

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Uneasy calm grips Ukraine as West prepares winter aid

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By Jamey Keaten in Kyiv

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — An uneasy calm hung over Kyiv on Tuesday as residents of the Ukrainian capital did what they could to prepare for anticipated Russian missile attacks aiming to take out more energy infrastructure as winter sets in.

To ease that burden, NATO allies made plans to boost provisions of blankets, generators and other basic necessities to ensure Ukraine’s 43 million people can maintain their resolve in the 10th month of fighting against Russia’s invasion.

Ukraine’s first lady implored the West to show the same kind of steadfastness that Ukrainians had shown against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military campaign.

“Ukrainians are very tired of this war, but we have no choice in the matter,” Olena Zelenska, the wife of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said in a BBC interview during a visit to Britain.

“We do hope that the approaching season of Christmas doesn’t make you forget about our tragedy and get used to our suffering,” she said.

A two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Bucharest, Romania, was likely to see the 30-nation alliance make fresh pledges of nonlethal support to Ukraine: fuel, generators, medical supplies and winter equipment, on top of new military support.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was to announce substantial U.S. aid for Ukraine’s energy grid, U.S. officials said. Targeted Russian strikes have battered Ukraine’s power infrastructure since early October in what Western officials have described as a Russian attempt campaign to weaponize the coming winter cold.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at the outset of the Bucharest meeting that Russia “is willing to use extreme brutality and leave Ukraine cold and dark this winter. So we must stay the course and help Ukraine prevail as a sovereign nation.”

About a third of Ukraine’s residents faced power supply disruptions, Ukraine’s state grid operator said, both because of increased demand due to colder temperatures and the emergency shutdown of power units at several plants since Monday morning.

“The overall deficit in the energy system is a consequence of seven waves of Russian missile attacks on the country’s energy infrastructure,” electricity system operator Ukrenergo said.

Kyiv saw continued interruptions to its electricity, heat and water supply, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Tuesday, leading authorities to “consider the option of partial evacuation of the capital’s residents to the suburbs.”

Blinken reminded everyone it was not the first time that Russia had targeted helpless civilians in this war and insisted only strong support would impact the Kremlin.

Russia’s Black Sea fleet already bombarded Ukrainian cities and towns and bottled up vital grain shipments for the rest of the world in Ukrainian ports. Blinken said the U.S and NATO’s resulting military buildup in the strategic waterway would only intensify.

“We’re not going to be deterred,” he told reporters, in one of his more forceful statements of the day. “We’re going to be reinforcing NATO’s presence from the Black to the Baltic seas.”

Bogdan Aurescu, foreign minister of Romania, another Black Sea nation, said that Romania would be pushing the two-day NATO meeting to up the military presence further still.

The Ukrainian government was putting up defenses too — both for troops and for civilians. The government rolled out hundreds of help stations, christened Points of Invincibility, where residents facing the loss of power, heating and water can warm up, charge their phones, enjoy snacks and hot drinks, and even be entertained.

“I had no electricity for two days. Now there’s only some electricity, and no gas,” said Vanda Bronyslavavina, who took a breather inside one such help center in Kyiv’s Obolon neighborhood.

The 71-year-old lamented the uncertainty about whether Russia will simply resume its strikes after infrastructure gets fixed, a frustrating cycle of destruction and repair that has made wartime life even more uncertain.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, said Russian forces overnight fired on seven regions in Ukraine’s south and east, employing missiles, drones and heavy artillery. At least one civilian was killed and two wounded.

Tymoshenko said that as of Tuesday, power had been restored to 24% of residents in the hard-hit southern city of Kherson.

On the battlefields in eastern Ukraine’s Russia-annexed Luhansk region, Ukrainian forces were continuing a slow advance, pushing toward Russian defense lines set up between two key cities, Gov. Serhiy Haidai said. He acknowledged in televised remarks that the onset of winter was compounding a “difficult” military situation.

The prospect of any peace remained remote. The Kremlin reaffirmed Tuesday that negotiations could only be possible if Ukraine meets Russian demands. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “it’s impossible to hold any talks now because the Ukrainian side strongly rejects them.”

He noted that “political will and readiness to discuss the Russian demands” are needed to conduct negotiations.

Russia has demanded that Ukraine recognize Crimea as part of Russia and acknowledge other Russian gains. It also has repeated its earlier demands for “demilitarization” and “denazification,” albeit with less vigor than in the past.

___

Jill Lawless in London and Lorne Cook in Bucharest contributed to this report.

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Ukrainian president Zelenskky calls on Canada to help with long-term peace

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By Lee Berthiaume in Ottawa

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on Canada to help spearhead a long-term peace plan with Russia, as the nearly 10-month war in Ukraine enters a critical phase with the approach of winter.

The Ukrainian leader threw down the gauntlet in a pre-recorded video address to the Halifax International Security Forum, where senior government and military officials from Canada and around the world are gathering this weekend.

Zelenskyy, whose country was invaded by Russia in February, told participants that real and enduring peace between Kyiv and Moscow will require agreement on 10 different areas.

Those include the withdrawal of Russian forces, the release of prisoners, the securing of Ukraine’s nuclear, food and energy security, the restoration of his country’s territorial integrity and a tribunal to hold those responsible to account.

The Ukrainian president went on to encourage countries to “choose which item you can help with,” adding: “I believe that Canada, which strongly supports us, will also choose one of the peace formula items for itself and will show all strands of leadership.”

Among those participating in the forum was Defence Minister Anita Anand, who in her own address told those in attendance that Ukraine’s military is winning the war and Russian President Vladimir Putin had only united NATO and renewed its purpose.

“The spirit and determination of the Ukrainian people and President Zelenskyy continue to inspire us all. Ukraine’s armed forces are driven, disciplined and better-trained — and they are winning,” Anand said.

Russia is facing mounting setbacks after nearly nine months of fighting, and recently pulled troops out of the key city of Kherson in southern Ukraine. But Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s energy and power facilities have fueled fears of what winter will bring.

Ukraine’s electricity grid chief warned of hours-long power outages Friday as Russia zeroed in on its energy infrastructure with heavy artillery and missile attacks that have interrupted supplies to as much as 40 per cent of the country’s people.

Freezing temperatures are putting additional pressure on energy networks, grid operator Ukrenergo said.

“You always need to prepare for the worst. We understand that the enemy wants to destroy our power system in general, to cause long outages,” Ukrenergo’s chief executive Volodymyr Kudrytskyi told Ukrainian state television.

“We need to prepare for possible long outages, but at the moment we are introducing schedules that are planned and will do everything to ensure that the outages are not very long.”

Kyiv is already facing a “huge deficit in electricity,” said the city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko. Some 1.5 to two million people — about half of the city’s population — are periodically plunged into darkness as authorities switch electricity from one district to another.

“It’s a critical situation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian and international investigators were forging ahead on uncovering suspected war crimes committed by Russian forces during the Kharkiv region’s near seven-month occupation.

Ukraine’s National Police said Friday that its officers had initiated over 3,000 criminal proceedings against Russian troops.

Reports of torture and other atrocities committed by Russian troops have also emerged from the southern Kherson region, where Ukrainian officials said they have opened more than 430 war crimes cases and are investigating four alleged torture sites.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2022.

— With files from The Associated Press.

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