Russia expert says Canadian diplomats in Moscow are safe from attack

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

A government official and an academic are disputing a weekend report that claimed Canadian diplomats in Russia are in physical danger.

On Sunday, a Canadian Press article revealed a leaked memo which stated that Canada's aging embassy in Moscow was vulnerable to terrorist attacks and high-level espionage.

"'The possibility of terrorist incidents in Russia is high and the existing site offers almost no protection against an attack. Moscow is an extremely hostile environment and the current site is highly vulnerable to counter-intelligence threats.

These buildings have deteriorated beyond acceptable workplace standards. Compounded by age, numerous physical and structural deficiencies, and severe overcrowding, the chancery poses ongoing health, safety and security risks to Embassy staff and other user(s) of the facility, and impedes the effective delivery of mission programs."

A government source told Yahoo! Canada News that the memo was only a draft — possibly written by a disgruntled staffer — and didn't make its way up the chain-of-command because it didn't pass the smell test.

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"It was never addressed to the minister, it was never addressed to the deputy," he told Yahoo!.

When asked about the issue in the House of Commons, on Monday, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Diane Ablonczy said the government was concerned about the leak and is considering calling in the RCMP to investigate.

Carleton University professor Piotr Dutkiewicz, dubbed the most prominent Russia expert in Canada, agrees with the government's view, claiming that the memo was "exaggerated" and "misleading. "

"The language [in the memo] that Moscow is a very dangerous place for diplomats, it's obviously grossly exaggerated," he told Yahoo!.

"The person who wrote this does not know Moscow and the environment for the foreign diplomats living there. Whoever wrote this is misleading Canadian public opinion."

Canada is building a new embassy which won't be ready until January 2016.

Dutkiewicz supports the new base but says that more work space isn't really a necessity and that Canadian diplomats will be safe for the next three years.

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"The area in which the Canadian embassy is located is indeed old. Security arrangements are from [perfect]. This is an old building in the centre of old Moscow and as such it can't be secured in the way the Canadian government would probably want," he said.

"Yes a new embassy is needed but to put this article in this tone as a threat to life is simply bull shit."