Was the Russian Embassy’s press secretary expelled from Canada for telling the embarrassing truth? Sure sounds that way!

Posted on April 07, 2018, 3:05 am
8 mins

PHOTOS: Kirill Kalinin, former First Secretary and Press Secretary of the Russian Embassy in Canada. Below: Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, and the Russian Embassy in Ottawa.

Was Kirill Kalinin some kind of intelligence operative, as the Trudeau Government and the Globe and Mail now want us to think, or just an unusually talkative and savvy social media spokesperson for the Russian Embassy in Canada, as the National Post’s Friday morning scoop that he was among those caught in the NATO-wide purge of Russian diplomats implies?

It’s an interesting question, although probably not all that significant in a world where all diplomatic representatives of all countries in all foreign posts are authorized by their hosts to keep their eyes open and report home on what they see.

That said, Mr. Kalinin’s high-profile public role as press secretary of the Russian Embassy with the senior rank of First Secretary, described in an interview and commentary on this blog two months ago, was quite unusual in the annals of diplomacy for an envoy who was not an ambassador.

The more significant question is whether Mr. Kalinin was some kind of political saboteur who interfered in Canada’s democracy, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claims someone on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic staff was up to.

As the PM told a press conference Wednesday, with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg standing at his side, someone “used their diplomatic status to undermine Canada’s security or interfere in our democracy.”

“We all can remember the efforts by Russian propagandists to discredit our minister of foreign affairs in various ways through social media and by sharing scurrilous stories about her,” Mr. Trudeau told the media.

This was an odd explanation for the mass expulsions of Russian diplomats by countries in the U.S. orbit since the purpose was supposedly to punish Russia for a poison attack on a former intelligence official and his daughter in the U.K. The Russian government denies having anything to do with the attack despite aggressive claims by a shaky British government that they did. As usual with such matters, we’re mostly asked to take it on faith.

Neither Canadian nor Russian officials have named any of the four diplomats expelled from Canada. But Mr. Kalinin told the Post’s David Pugeliese he was on the list in an interview in advance of his departure with his pregnant wife and young daughter on Thursday. The Globe said yesterday it had confirmed his expulsion – presumably by reading the Post.

Whatever the jobs of the three anonymous members of Russia’s consulate staff in Montreal were, they certainly didn’t attract the attention Mr. Kalinin’s Tweets did.

As Mr. Pugeliese observed, Mr. Kalinin was not shy about the issues he took on publicly, which included the Nazi collaborationist history of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s grandfather and the presence in Canada of memorials to Ukrainian military units that fought for the Nazi cause in World War II. One of those memorials, which commemorates veterans of the 14th Waffen SS Division, is found in Edmonton’s St. Michael’s Cemetery.

The prime minister tried to leave the impression Mr. Kalinin’s comments about Ms. Freeland’s late grandfather were merely allegations, encouraging some reporters to refer to them as “a smear.”

Unfortunately, they are facts. As Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom pointed out Thursday, the unsavoury truth about Michael Chomiak was revealed in “a front-page story in that well-known vehicle of Russian propaganda, the Globe and Mail.”

Here’s what the Globe said two years ago to this day: “Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland knew for more than two decades that her maternal Ukrainian grandfather was the chief editor of a Nazi newspaper in occupied Poland that vilified Jews during the Second World War.”

So there is no question Mr. Kalinin got his facts right on the matter of the late Mr. Chomiak. The big questions are whether telling a politically relevant truth about the family of a cabinet minister is an appropriate thing for a foreign diplomat to do, and whether such an activity by a diplomat amounts to interference in the democracy of the host country.

Since the information had already been published in a variety of media widely available to Canadians, including prominent display in the so-called national newspaper, the suggestion critical comments about it interfered in Canada’s robust democracy is an insult to voters.

Indeed, you could argue Mr. Kalinin made a valuable contribution to a Canadian discourse in this matter, as he did on the disgrace of monuments to Nazi military formations and sympathizers sitting unremarked in Canadian cities.

The real problem seems to be Mr. Kalinin’s commentary got up a powerful minister’s nose by speaking the inconvenient truth about her relative.

After all, it’s not a “scurrilous story” to say the foreign affairs minister’s grandfather was a Nazi collaborator and a propagandist for the Holocaust. It’s an uncomfortable fact, which Ms. Freeland knew perfectly well.

As I wrote on this topic a year ago, no one should be punished for the sins of their relatives. The problem for Canadians should be that Ms. Freeland and her staff tried to pass off her grandfather’s history as “Russian disinformation.” In other words, she was lying to us, at a minimum by omission and misdirection.

Now, whether a diplomat should be declared persona non grata for pointing out an influential minister’s lie is a question your blogger is not qualified to answer. So is the question of whether the fact the minister also happened to be an aggressive critic of the activities of the government the diplomat represented should be considered a mitigating factor, or the opposite.

Presumably Mr. Kalinin knew the risks and someone in the Russian Foreign Ministry approved his taking them.

13 Comments to: Was the Russian Embassy’s press secretary expelled from Canada for telling the embarrassing truth? Sure sounds that way!

  1. Anne Peterson

    April 7th, 2018

    And Ms. Freeland’s uncle wrote a scholarly paper on the information. That’s Michael Chomiak.

  2. Ron

    April 7th, 2018

    Thank you for this. It seems that Trudeau gets worse by the day.

    Yes, “no one should be punished for the sins of their relatives” … ok
    but in Freeland’s case, prior to the ‘outing’, she actively and publicly honoured her grandfather… without any shame.

    Worse… she is ethnically blinded and supporting the current NATO-installed Nazi-linked regime in the Ukraine and working hard to involve Canada in that conflict.

  3. D MacDonald

    April 7th, 2018

    I lost any faith in her with the “my Ukraine” rhapsodizing, which showed me she was in thrall to her grandparents’ home. At the risk of being called a chauvinist, am i the only one who thinks her cocktail dresses are inappropriate workwear for a government minister?

    • Sandy

      April 8th, 2018

      Not at all… I can’t believe she wears those dresses, especially that horrid red dress.

  4. Jim

    April 7th, 2018

    I would be more concerned with Freeland and Trudeau’s close ties with a known unapologetic Nazi collaborator who is still alive. But we aren’t supposed to talk about he who shall not be named, the 60 Minutes interview seems to have resurfaced again though.

    It is perhaps more dangerous to our democracy that we obediently fall in line and expel Russians because of some unproven accusations. Foreign policy should be made on Ottawa for and by Canadians, example the illegal invasion of Iraq. Perhaps ask Kenney how that regime change operation is going in Libya? I hear labour can be purchased rather cheaply on the streets of Tripoli maybe this is the open market he wants to bring to Alberta?
    Now that the British allegations are starting to fall apart Freeland and Trudeau and looking pretty stupid. Trudeau is more and more becoming what I feared he really was, Canada’s Obama. Same old policies just a prettier face.

  5. ronmac

    April 7th, 2018

    Justin Trudeau was described as being “intellectually lazy”, allowing junior ministers to push their own agendas while he is doing his “sunny ways” thing.

    Meanwhile footage has emerged of a media availability session given by Chrystia Freelad soon after the expulsion.


  6. Bill Malcolm

    April 7th, 2018

    Freeland is and has been for some time barred from entry to Russia. Imagine that. After they dumped Dion, our brainiacs picked someone who couldn’t attend a diplomatic conference in Moscow even if she wanted to. Brainpower shines out of JT’s earholes, or more likely he responded to unofficial US State Dept requests. Why not have a thorn in Russia’s side to go along with sanctions. P*ss poor diplomatic behaviour on our part.


    We get fed the same BS news that Russia invaded Ukraine, home of the successive governments who wouldn’t pay their natural gas bill, and annexed Crimea where bar the Tatars, the population is quite happy with the change, so far as my searching has found. There is an entire Wikipedia article on Ukraine not paying its bills for a decade. Still hasn’t, hiding behind the US and Canada’s skirts and sticking its tongue out.

    Now you have maximum Boris, the empty head UK FM, and the slimy spook/Aristocrat classes, blaming Russia for a poisoning by lethal agent that wasn’t lethal. Do these bent rozzers want war? I believe about zero of the official BS we get fed this past decade.

    I’m no fan of Russia and its oligarchs, but I see no sign our side is any better except to the mouth-agape beer and wings crowd who don’t even follow the news.

    Canada is just a toady for US interests, especially the backdoor Dems of the Heinous Hillary variety. I mean, what is going on? I’m ashamed of our outsourced foreign policy with a demagogue in charge of promulgating it, while our PM puts on a tapdance selfie show. His father would have had this horse manure sorted out in double quick time.

  7. jerrymacgp

    April 7th, 2018

    David: I don’t hold to the “new Cold War” rhetoric currently being put forward by the more alarmist international affairs analysts and their media mouthpieces. But, I’m afraid I also don’t hold with your apologism for the kleptocracy that is Putin’s Russia. Of course, today’s Russia is no Soviet Union. Putin’s approach to the NATO countries is not driven, or even superficially coloured, by ideology or any quest for world domination. But it is driven by crass self-interest, and a new commitment to what Gwynne Dyer called the “great power game”. His regime is as corrupt as any we have ever seen in a so-called democracy, and he is clearly quite comfortable with brinkmanship. Clandestine murders of his enemies on Western soil have become a policy tool for him, and he is an existential threat to the smaller, more vulnerable states of Europe. The action by NATO countries to collectively toss out hundreds of Russian diplomats is both justified and proportional.

    As for whether Minister Freeland’s uncle was a Nazi collaborator, or simply knuckled under to duress during a very difficult time in Europe’s history—there are historians taking either position—I don’t know enough about the matter to have an opinion, but IMHO it’s beside the point. The Russians used subterfuge and deceit to reoccupy the Crimean peninsula, and continue to destabilize the fragile and nascent Ukrainian democracy. They remain a threat to peace and democracy in Europe, and have also acted to mess around with democracy in North America. The already broken and unfair American electoral system was particularly vulnerable to their attacks, but make no mistake, we are not invulnerable.

    • Keith McClary

      April 8th, 2018

      “destabilize the fragile and nascent Ukrainian democracy”
      The US colluded with the coup plotters. The Victoria Nuland phone call dictated who was to be in the regime.

  8. Athabascan

    April 8th, 2018

    This is unbelievable!

    Are we now at the point in political discourse where we start attacking people’s grand parents to score political points?

    OK, you knuckle dragging right-wingers. Let’s dig into your extended families’ backgrounds, starting with Harper’s family.

    • Keith McClary

      April 9th, 2018

      This arose because Freeland eulogized him on Victims of Nazism Day.

      • Athabascan

        April 10th, 2018

        Still irrelevant…

        You don’t attack a person because of what their grandparents did.

  9. dcembre

    April 8th, 2018

    Democracy… he must be joking this son of a twitt!…


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