Joly, German counterpart defend decision to return turbines covered under Russian sanctions

·3 min read
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and her German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, tour the Port of Montreal on Wednesday. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and her German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, tour the Port of Montreal on Wednesday. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Canada and Germany's foreign ministers are insisting Canada's controversial decision to send turbines used in a Russian natural gas pipeline back to Germany was necessary while refuting Russian claims that the sanctions are stopping their transfer.

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly met with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in Montreal on Wednesday to discuss Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the war's implications on energy and food prices.

In July, Canada said it would grant a Canadian company an exemption on Russian sanctions and allow the export to Germany of six turbines under maintenance in Montreal that are part of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which runs from Russia to Germany.

But since then, Russia has reduced natural gas supplies through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany citing technical issues that Germany says are an excuse for a political power play.

Gazprom, the Russian state-owned company that operates the pipeline, has claimed maintenance on one turbine that has already been returned was not in line with the contract with Siemens Energy.

During a media conference with Joly on Wednesday, Baerbock criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for using energy as a "game" to create disunity between Canada, Germany and other allies.

"Our strongest weapon is unity within this alliance," Baerbock said. "There is no chance, not even a single inch that Putin is successful in splitting us."

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press
Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

That decision to grant a sanction exemption on the turbines angered Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who called Canada's actions unacceptable.

Joly reiterated her government's position that the decision to grant the exemption was a "difficult" one, but echoed her German counterpart's criticism of Russia and Putin.

"It is now clear that Putin is weaponizing energy flows to European. The world sees through his game," Joly said.

German chancellor inspects turbine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz inspected the turbine Wednesday in Germany and said "there are no problems" blocking the part's return to Russia, apart from missing information from Russia's state-controlled gas company, Gazprom.

Gazprom last week said the cut in gas supplies to Germany was because the turbine's delivery has been delayed due to Western sanctions, a claim it repeated Wednesday. The company specifically wants documents from Siemens proving that the turbine isn't subject to Western sanctions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

But in an interview with CBC's Power & Politics airing Wednesday, Joly said she doesn't buy Gazprom's claims.

"We haven't trusted Russia since the invasion, this won't change," she told host Catherine Cullen.

During the press conference, Joly also denied she or her staff had any "specific" information about a direct threat to Ukrainian staff members at Canada's embassy in Kyiv.

Joly was asked whether the government abandoned Ukrainian staff members in Kyiv. The Globe and Mail reported that before the Russian invasion, Global Affairs Canada had information that Moscow had compiled so-called "hit" lists of Ukrainian nationals to be detained or even killed during the occupation. Embassy leaders in Kyiv were told to withhold this information from local staff, according to the Globe.

"Never did I or the department have any information [about] targeting locally engaged staff," Joly said in response, adding that Ukrainian staff in Kyiv were offered the option to come to Canada.

Later on Power & Politics, Joly was specifically asked if there was a specific threat toward the local embassy staff or if she was only unaware of a threat.

"We were not aware of any specific threat," Joly responded.  "We've done everything that was required, as in such circumstances, to protect our locally engaged staff."

Joly added that on the day of the invasion, she was "on the phone with our top Canadian diplomat in Ukraine, Larissa Galarza, the ambassador, to make sure that the staff was well treated and at the same time that they would have access to pathways to come to Canada."

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