OTTAWA — 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
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press