What do you call it when a Canadian ambassador justifies the placing of a bomb in a café to kill a prominent member of the media and which injures dozens of others? Diplomacy? Last week Canada’s ambassador to the UN excused blowing up a Russian cafe to kill a pro-war commentator. Bob Rae’s statement highlights Ottawa’s escalation of tensions.
On April 2, prominent blogger Vladlen Tatarsky was killed in St. Petersburg. The bomb injured 31 others in the café where he was speaking. Two days afterwards the Russia at the United Nations handle tweeted, “We heard no reaction to the assassination of journalist Tatarsky from the international community, the UN or journalist organizations. There is selectiveness when assessing what happened to journalists here and there. They’d have commented if it had not been a Russian journalist.” In response Ambassador Rae tweeted, “Because he was not a ‘journalist’. He was a vitriolic propagandist, a spreader of hate and misinformation with a criminal record. Russian journalists are either in exile or in jail.”
Tatarsky was born and worked in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. In 2014 he was released from jail and fought in the civil war unleashed by the Canadian-backed ouster of elected president Viktor Yanukovich. Whatever one thinks of his extreme militarist views, was it right to assassinate the high-profile commentator? And even if one considers Tatarsky a legitimate target, how about the 19 people hospitalized by the bomb? “Bob Rae supports bombing civilians in cafes”, opined one commentator.
While Rae considers all journalists in Russia “propagandists”, the vast majority of Canadian and US journalists also promoted the Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan wars. According to Davide Mastracci’s recent investigation, “editorial boards have supported Canada’s war and regime change efforts since the First World War 98 per cent of the time.” Is it ok to bomb cafes where Terry Glavin or Andrew Coyne are speaking? As one commentator tweeted, “by this logic the mere presence of Thomas Friedman at a cafe fully justifies a bombing with collateral casualties.”
By Rae’s absurd logic he himself is a legitimate target. As Liberal foreign affairs critic Rae aggressively promoted NATO’s 2011 bombing of Libya. A year before pushing for war on Libya, Rae allied with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to extend the occupation of Afghanistan beyond an announced troop withdrawal in 2011. He also justified the 2004 invasion to overthrow Haiti’s elected president and has staunchly supported Israel’s violence against Palestinians.
The Russia in Canada twitter handle tied the West’s reaction about Tatarsky’s murder to the August killing of journalist Dasha Dugina. (It’s unclear if the prominent reporter was the planned target or if the bomb was meant for her father, a well-known Russian nationalist intellectual). Despite their stated promotion of global press freedom, Ottawa also stayed silent on Dugina’s killing.
In response to Rae, journalist Camilla Escalante tweeted, “It’s alarming that Ambassador Bob Rae would justify terrorism and the killing of a journalist when Canadians are on the very same kill list.” Escalante is referring to Eva Bartlett who is on the semi-official Ukrainian “kill list”, which included Tatarsky, Dugina and others the site now labels “liquidated”.
Defend journalism and peace, not terrorism and war
On Monday the Kyiv Independent reported that the Ukrainian government has determined that Canada’s most prominent military reporter is “undesirable”. Established in 2021 with $200,000 from the Canadian government, the Kyiv Independent headline read: “Canadian Journalist Branded ‘Undesirable Person’ in Ukraine. David Pugliese has come to the attention of officials in Kyiv due to his writings for the Ottawa Citizen which often echo Kremlin talking points.”
The story quotes anonymous Ukrainian and Canadian officials’ slagging a journalist who has been at the Ottawa Citizen for more than three decades. It concludes with an unnamed Canadian official noting, “Glenn Greenwald, Tucker Carlson, and others have been identified by media watchers – but Pugliese has not received the scrutinized attention that he should, as he is a potential risk, since it does appear that he is carrying water for the Kremlin.” Is this a step towards Pugliese’s name appearing on the kill list?
Rae’s recent statement isn’t his first extreme, decidedly undiplomatic, comment on Russia. Since there is little push back from mainstream politicians or media, he keeps escalating.
Rae is following and shaping the Canadian government position. Recently foreign affairs minister Mélanie Joly called for regime change in Moscow while dismissing China’s attempt to broker a truce and negotiate a peace accord. At this week’s NATO summit Joly repeated her childish position that, “Russia needs to get out of Ukraine and China needs to say to Russia to get out of Ukraine.” In Brussels, Joly also led the push for Ukrainian accession to the alliance. With over 100,000 Russian troops amassed on the border, Joly travelled to Kyiv in January 2022 to promote Ukraine joining NATO, knowing this increased the likelihood of war. Fourteen months later Joly continues to escalate tensions.
Where does this end? What’s the offramp?
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