Ukraine criticizes Canada for returning Russian turbines

By Terry Davidson

Law360 Canada (July 11, 2022, 5:20 PM EDT) -- Ukraine’s government is condemning Canada’s decision to return Russian-owned gas turbines being held at a Montreal repair facility by creating a temporary export permit that allows Ottawa to get around current sanctions against Moscow.

On July 9, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson released a statement on social media announcing the decision was made following talks with Germany, which reportedly had requested the return of the equipment due to the country’s reliance of natural gas from Russia through the Nordstream 1 pipeline.

The six turbines have been held at a Siemens Canada facility in Montreal. At least one news report suggests they will be sent to Germany, at which point they will be given to Russia.  

Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson

Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson

In his statement, Wilkinson said Ottawa had been in talks with Germany, Ukraine and the European Commission.  

“Following these engagements, Canada will grant a time-limited and revocable permit for Siemens Canada to allow the return of the repaired Nord Stream 1 turbines to Germany, supporting Europe’s ability to access reliable and affordable energy as they continue to transition away from Russian oil and gas,” said Wilkinson. “Absent a necessary supply of natural gas, the German economy will suffer very significant hardship and Germans themselves will be at risk of being unable to heat their homes as winter approaches.”

Still, Wilkinson said Canada “stands with Ukraine against the unprovoked, brutal invasion by Russia and … will continue to work in co-ordination with Allies and partners to impose severe costs on the Russian regime.”

The news of Canada’s decision comes as fears grow in Germany that a current temporary maintenance shutdown of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline could become an indefinite one, with at least one German government official accusing Moscow of using it as punishment for European Union sanctions against Russia.

The myriad of sanctions imposed against Russia by Canada and other Allied countries has been growing ever since Moscow declared war on Ukraine in late February — an all-out assault that has been deemed an illegal invasion of the country.  

On July 10, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement expressing its “deep disappointment” with Canada’s decision, saying that while Canada’s sanctions against Russia are appreciated, this “Canadian-German agreement” runs contrary to “the rule of law.”

It stated that “the transfer of the Nord Stream-1 turbine[s] will allow Russia to continue to use energy as a tool of hybrid warfare against Europe.”

“We call on the Canadian government to reconsider this decision and ensure the integrity of the sanctions regime,” it stated. “There can be no exceptions when it comes to holding Russia accountable for tens of thousands of murdered Ukrainians, hundreds of thousands of destroyed infrastructure objects, millions of internally displaced persons and refugees, and an undisguised attack on democracy and the rule of law around the world.”

The Ministry also stated that Russia is still able to supply gas to Germany, and that Moscow’s “demand for the mandatory return of the turbine to continue gas transportation is a blackmail that has no technical justification.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was reportedly feeling pressure from Germany to release the turbines — particularly during the G7 summit this past June.  

Sabine Sparwasser, Germany’s ambassador to Canada, said her country is “grateful to the Canadian government for this decision.”

“We know it was not an easy one. But it is crucial to help Canada’s European Allies to steadily build out our independence from Russian Energy, and it preserves our unity. We will continue to support Ukraine on all levels: politically, financially, with military equipment and through our tough sanctions against Russia. We support Ukraine’s candidacy to the EU and will continue to welcome Ukrainian refugees.”

Meanwhile, Ottawa announced July 9 it would be expanding its oil, gas and chemical sanctions against Russia to include industrial manufacturing.

“The oil, gas, chemical and manufacturing sectors account for more than 50 [per cent] of Russia’s federal budget revenues, which it uses to wage its illegal and unprovoked war in Ukraine,” reads a federal government statement.  

“These new sanctions will apply to land and pipeline transport and the manufacturing of metals and of transport, computer, electronic and electrical equipment, as well as of machinery. Once the measures are in effect, Canadian businesses will have 60 days to conclude contracts with targeted industries and services.”

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