Navalny aide urges Canada to sanction Russian oligarchs
Leonid Volkov, the chief of staff of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, urges Canada to impose sanctions on Russian oligarchs as part of what he hopes will be a more ambitious effort to censor and coerce President Vladimir Putin.
It sends a list of 35 people – some of whom have already been targeted by Canada – to members of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. These include many wealthy Russians who support Mr Putin who Mr Volkov said would face sanctions to put pressure on the Russian leader.
In a video appearance at a committee meeting on Thursday, Mr Volkov mentioned several people, including Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich, owner of English football club Chelsea and a major shareholder of Evraz Steel, which owns several facilities. production in Canada. Mr. Abramovich is a confidant of Mr. Putin.
“He’s No. 1 on our list,” Volkov said.
Mr Abramovich recently sued the HarperCollins publishing house for a recent book which claimed to have purchased the Chelsea Football Club under Mr Putin’s leadership and to raise Russia’s profile and increase its influence.
In March, Canada imposed sanctions on nine Russian government officials for the poisoning and prosecution of Mr. Navalny, joining other Western allies who acted earlier. The sanctions prohibit Canadian financial institutions from providing services to these Russian officials and from freezing any assets they hold in Canada. When applied in concert with allies, they can hamper the target’s efforts to transfer funds to safe countries.
Mr. Navalny, 44, one of Mr. Putin’s most prominent critics, was jailed earlier this year for parole violations in a move the West condemned as politically motivated. He is about to serve a 2.5 year sentence and can only communicate with the outside world through his lawyers.
Russian tycoon Yevgeny Prigozhin is other possible sanctions targets discussed by Mr Volkov on Thursday. The US government accused him of being the main funder of the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency, often unofficially referred to as the “Russian troll factory,” which carries out disinformation campaigns from St. Petersburg, including against Canada.
Mr. Prigozhin is already subject to US sanctions for reasons such as his interference in the 2016 and 2018 US elections.
Mr Volkov told MPs how Mr Navalny’s supporters dissolved his political movement after Russia began to prepare to designate it as an extremist group.
He also urged Canada to join other countries in pressuring Britain to take further action against Russian oligarchs and Mr. Putin’s friends. London is a global financial center and has been nicknamed “Londongrad” in media and popular culture for the large number of super-rich Russians it has attracted over the decades.
“The key part of the story is the UK,” Volkov told Members of Parliament.
“Eighty percent of these assets in question are stored in London,” he said.
Robert Oliphant, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said Ottawa was aware of this.
“The government is aware of this and there are conversations,” Oliphant told Mr. Volkov.
Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said he believed the government should expand sanctions to include Russians Dmitry Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoy, who, according to a British investigation, concluded that Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko, as well as Colonel Alexander Mishkin and Colonel Anatoly Chepiga, were reportedly sent to poison Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer who was acting as a double agent for Britain.
In these cases, Britain and the United States have already sanctioned these men, and Mr. Chong said Canada must do the same “or we risk becoming a safe haven for those fleeing sanctions elsewhere.”
Marcus Kolga, human rights activist and senior researcher at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, said he hoped Canada would heed Mr. Volkov’s advice and expand its sanctions targets in Russia. “If we want to help Russian human rights activists, we must listen to their suggestions and add the names of these Vladimir Putin facilitators that they have publicly requested from us,” Kolga said.
With a report from Reuters
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