Russian ambassador to Canada says ‘nobody cares’ about threat of Western sanctions

Russia’s Ambassador to Canada Oleg Stepanov says the threat of Western sanctions in response to a military buildup along the Ukraine border carries no weight.

In an interview on CTV News Channel’s Power Play with host Evan Solomon on Thursday, Stepanov said the possibility of new sanctions wouldn’t influence the country’s future actions.

“Sanctions never work and sanctions never will be able to work against such countries, such [a] nation as Russia. The attempts to use sanctions as a threat in order to make Russia do certain steps on the international area is just an illusion,” he said.

“Actually, in Russia, and the Russian government, and I can tell you frankly, nobody cares about Western sanctions anymore…because they don’t work and they don’t bite, they don’t inflict any real influence or any practical outcome.”

Canada, as well as other NATO allies, have stressed that any further incursion by Russian troops into Ukraine would lead to “serious consequences” and sanctions.

The Canadian government has been unclear as to what those sanctions would look like.

Global Affairs reports that Canada has targeted more than 440 individuals and entities related to Russia dating back to 2014 when its military forcibly annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

The U.S. Treasury Department levied new sanctions Thursday against four Ukrainian officials, including two current members of parliament who administration officials say are part of a Russian influence effort to set the pretext for further invasion of Ukraine.

Stepanov said Russia has “no desire” to invade Ukraine, adding that the amassing of some 100,000 troops along the border is part of “regular exercises” on its own territory.

“Russia can do anything on its own territory and of course we would never move our troops in our territory at the behest of foreign countries,” he said.

U.S. President Job Biden told reporters on Wednesday that while he doesn’t believe Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a final decision about a full-scale attack, he said “my guess is he will move in.”

The U.S. and the U.K. have started sending weapons to Ukraine for self-defence purposes, following up on one of the country’s key asks to NATO.

While in Ukraine this week, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said Canada would make a decision about whether to send weapons in a “timely manner.”

As part of Operation UNIFIER, Canada sends a group of about 200 Canadian Armed Forces members to Ukraine every six months. The operation’s focus is to assist with training in coordination with the U.S. and other countries that provide that level of support.

On the mission, Stepanov said Russia has “many concerns” about it, but it’s a “sovereign decision” by Canada.

Retired Canadian Maj.-Gen. David Fraser, a former commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan, refuted Stepanov’s claims that sanctions don’t work in a later interview on CTV News Channel’s Power Play.

“If you look at history, sanctions actually do work. Look what they’ve done to Iran and let’s not forget that the Russian economy of $1.3 trillion GDP – Texas has a bigger economy, Canada has a bigger economy, so sanctions will work against Russia,” he said.

Fraser said this is a political problem that requires a political solution.

“There’s nothing we can do militarily…we do matter on the political side of the house and we’ve got to find a political solution to this and this is where sanctions [come in],” he said.

With a file from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press.

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