‘Cut them from everything,’ Ukrainian IT worker says as Canada hits Russian oligarchs

‘Cut them from everything,’ Ukrainian IT worker says as Canada hits Russian oligarchs

OTTAWA — A self-described Ukrainian information warrior sent her thanks to Canada from Kyiv on Thursday after it tightened its economic chokehold on Russian oligarchs and opened its arms to Ukrainians fleeing the war.

The government announced Ukrainians can find a safe haven in Canada using expedited temporary visas for emergency travel, while it ratcheted up economic pressure on Russia by booting it and its ally, Belarus, off its most favoured nation list of trade partners. That now subjects their exports to 35 per cent tariffs, said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Until Thursday, the only other country that did not enjoy that preferred trading status with Canada was North Korea, she noted.

From Kyiv, a 33-year-old information technology worker said though she was not aware specifically of what Canada announced on Thursday, it was exactly what was needed to help her country fight off the Russian invasion.

“My message is: Canadian people, please support Ukraine in this war. For Canadian politicians, political people, please provide the strictest regulations towards Russia. Cut them from everything, from economical relations in business to the political things,” Olivia Milton said in an interview from her home in the Ukrainian capital.

“Canadian people, we hear your voices and we appreciate your support. We appreciate that you can host Ukrainian people in Canada right now … and we appreciate support (that) preceded that.”

Milton said she was part of a Ukrainian “information army” made up of public relations, marketing and information specialists who are flooding social media channels to tell the world about the horrors being inflicted on their country.

Freeland said the brainstorming of her fellow G7 finance ministers and other western allies to find new, creative ways to inflict economic pain on Russia has been driven by the heroic efforts of Ukrainians of all stripes to repel their massive military opponent over the past week.

“That incredibly brave, incredibly spirited resistance has inspired the West,” she said.

Freeland said western democracies might be “losing our mojo. You know, we were getting a little bit cynical about whether democracy really works.” But she said seeing a smaller Ukrainian military force stand up to a much larger enemy “has been transformative.”

Freeland said the new measures announced Thursday will increase the pressure on Russia’s oligarchs, whom she called the “sycophants” and “enablers” in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle who have lived luxurious lives in the West.

“They have enjoyed a pretty fabulous lifestyle in the West with yachts and mansions and having their kids at the fanciest universities and private schools. And what we’ve done with these measures, much more forcefully than the Russian elite anticipated, is we have said, ‘You know what, you have to pick sides.’”

Freeland announced new sanctions against 10 executives with Gazprom, a major Russian state-owned energy company, and Rosneft, Russia’s leading oil company. Freeland said that brings to 1,000 the total number of people and entities sanctioned, or in the process of being sanctioned, by Canada since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

“We’re showing that there are consequences. And it’s very important for Russia to understand that these consequences will become more and more severe,” she said. “Watch this space: there’s a lot more to come.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada and other close partners are calling for Russia’s suspension from Interpol.

“We’re supporting this because we believe that international law enforcement co-operation depends on a collective commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and mutual respect between Interpol members.”