Canada slapped new sanctions on nine senior Russian officials on Wednesday to protest “gross and systematic” human rights violations.
The action was spurred by an assassination attempt on Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent imprisonment for more than two years on what critics said are trumped-up charges triggered by political differences.
“The Russian government has repeatedly shown its unwillingness to respect the basic rights of its own people and address concerns raised on multiple occasions by the international community,” Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement.
The Russian sanctions are a result of Navalny who was poisoned last August and recovered in Germany. The finger of blame pointed straight toward his fierce vocal opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Navalny returned to Russia in January and was subsequently arrested, tried by a court and given the two-year sentence.
The US imposed sanctions on seven senior Russian officials earlier this month, joining the EU and UK who took the action earlier. Canada has now followed suit.
“The sanctions are part of a concerted diplomatic effort to bring pressure on senior figures in Russia’s administration involved in the attempted murder of Alexei Navalny, his subsequent prosecution and the silencing of Russian citizens who protested his treatment with heavy-handed and often violent methods,” the Canadian statement read.
As officials criticize Russia, Canada has come under criticism for not doing enough to free women who were captured by the Daesh/ISIS terror group, turned into sex slaves, had children and now languish in squalid Syrian camps.
Kurdish officials leveled the charge shortly after former US diplomat Peter Galbraith earlier this month went to Iraq and Syria to free a 4-year-old Canadian girl and reunite her with relatives in Canada. The girl’s aunt accompanied Galbraith. The move came at the request of the child’s mother who remains in Syria.
The women were captured by the Daesh/ISIS terror group and turned into sex slaves or married militants. There are more than 20 Canadian children stranded in detention camps.
Along with Kurdish officials who operate the camps, Human Rights Watch Canada and the UN have said that Canada is among the shameful countries that have not done enough to repatriate the women and children. Estimates vary, but there are around 46 Canadian women and children Canadians in the Al Roj Syrian detention camp and eight men accused of being members of Daesh in prison.
“It is a list of shame and it behooves Canada to follow the example of other states to take decisive and immediate action and return their nationals,” said Fionnuala Nio Aolain of the UN in a statement in February.
Canada has not directly addressed the criticism, but last week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government, while not participating in the rescue, “facilitated the travel documents” for the 4-year-old girl.
And Public Safety Minister Bill Blair earlier told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that freeing Canadians in the camps is “a fairly complex and often dangerous one and so the repatriation of any individual from that environment has been challenging.”
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