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Russia expels Canadian diplomat

23 april 2014, 14:47
Russian foreign ministry. Photo courtesy of vestikavkaza.ru
Russian foreign ministry. Photo courtesy of vestikavkaza.ru

Moscow has ordered a Canadian diplomat to leave the country in retaliation for Ottawa's expulsion of a Russian official, AFP reports according to Russian news agencies, citing a government source.

The Canadian embassy's first secretary Margarita Atanasov was Tuesday ordered to leave Russia within 14 days, they quoted a source at the Russian foreign ministry as saying.

"This step is undertaken in response to the recent expulsion from Ottawa of an aide to a Russian military attache," the source said.

Canadian media said earlier this month that a Russian diplomat had been ordered to leave the country.

Lieutenant-Colonel Yury Bezler was declared persona non grata and given two weeks to depart, after serving less than a year as assistant defence attache at the Russian embassy in Ottawa, said the Ottawa Citizen and others, citing unnamed sources.

The embassy and Canada's foreign affairs department declined to comment at the time.

The expulsion comes amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West over the Kremlin's takeover of Crimea. The United States also accuses Russian agents of stoking a flaring secession crisis in eastern Ukraine.

Canada, which has the world's third largest population of ethnic Ukrainians, also recently expelled nine Russian military officers after suspending joint Canada-Russia military training. But they had no diplomatic accreditation.

The Russian diplomatic source said Tuesday's expulsion was not the first such "exchange of niceties" between Russian and Canadian officials, accusing Ottawa of initiating similar incidents.

The source said Russian diplomats had been refused Canadian visas, and accused Ottawa of taking a "destructive anti-Russian position" over the Ukraine crisis.

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