OTTAWA — Canadians should expect the pain of Western sanctions against Russia to boomerang on our economy, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland warned Tuesday, as Ottawa blacklisted several more of President Vladimir Putin’s top political lieutenants and said Russian oligarchs with holdings in Canada are now in the crosshairs.
After attending a meeting of G7 finance ministers on Tuesday, Freeland said the embattled government of Ukraine presented “creative” ideas of how to ramp up economic pressure on the Russian president.
However, she said, the strategy is unlikely to come without a cost to Canadians.
“If we are truly determined to stand with Ukraine, if the stakes in this fight are as high as I believe them to be, we have to be honest with ourselves,” said Freeland. “I have to be honest with Canadians that there could be some collateral damage in Canada.”
Canada added more names to a growing sanctions list — including top figures like former president Dmitry Medvedev — as the federal government continues efforts with G7, European and NATO allies to financially squeeze Russian elites over the invasion of Ukraine, and promised more measures are coming.
“We know that we are the most effective when we act together,” said Freeland.
“In order to really have an impact, we are going to have to be prepared for there to be some adverse consequences for our own economies. Of course, that is much, much, much more true for our European partners than it is for us, but it’s the reality.”
The additional sanctions came through an order from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet on Monday that added 18 Russian individuals and three financial institutions under regulations that ban them from doing business with Canadians.
Canada is also increasing humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and will block Russian-owned and operated ships, including fishing vessels, from Canadian waters and ports.
The cabinet order made it official that, as Trudeau promised last Friday, Canada is applying sanctions against Putin. It also included a host of his top lieutenants that the government had promised to target.
These include Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu, Justice Minister Konstantin Chuychenko and Putin’s chief of staff Anton Vaino.
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The list, which was provided to the Star by the Privy Council Office, also includes targets not yet announced by the government. Among them is Medvedev, who succeeded Putin as Russia’s president from 2008 to 2012, when Putin returned to the job.
Medvedev served as Russia’s prime minister until 2020, and now sits as deputy chair of the country’s security council.
Canada is also placing sanctions on Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Deputy Prime Minister Yury Trutnev, Internal Affairs Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, and other officials including St. Petersburg Gov. Alexander Beglov, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, and Russia’s top federal customs official, Vladimir Bulavin.
The cabinet order also placed expected Canadian sanctions on Russia’s central bank, national wealth fund and finance ministry.
Absent from the list, however, are Russian billionaires like Roman Abramovich who owns more than a quarter of the public shares in steelmaking giant Evraz, which has operations in Alberta and Saskatchewan and has supplied most of the steel for the government-owned TransMountain pipeline project. Abramovich has long been cited by now-jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny as an oligarch who holds Putin’s personal wealth and should be subject to sanctions.
Evraz’s board of directors also includes two Russians whom the U.S. government identified as “oligarchs” in 2019 — Aleksandr Abramov and Aleksandr Frolov — and its Canadian operation has received significant support from the federal government.
That includes at least $27 million in emergency wage subsidies during the pandemic, as well as $7 million through a fund meant to help heavy polluters reduce emissions that cause climate change, according to the company’s most recent annual report.
Asked about Abramovich’s holdings in Canada, as well as the possibility of sanctioning Russian-linked companies like Evraz with a significant presence in this country, Freeland stressed that Western allies feel the sanctions will be most effective if they are applied in unison.
She went on to say that “everything is on the table, and we are looking carefully at the holdings of oligarchs in Canada.”
Alex Ballingall is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @aballinga
Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamacc
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