Canadians Have Friendly Attitude Toward Russia Despite West Fomenting Fears, Envoy Says
“It certainly does not bring joy to our relationship. We speak openly and privately: if you want peace in Ukraine, use your influence on Kiev, force the implementation of the Minsk package of measures and sit down at the negotiating table with the DPR and LPR. This is the only way to a peaceful settlement of the intra-Ukrainian conflict," he said.
“Canada has a talented diplomatic service, with its own school and traditions. The dialogue is professional and mutually respectful...We have the opportunity to express our point of view, to listen to the Canadian one. Even when there are obvious political differences between our governments, diplomats must communicate," Stepanov said.
He emphasized that Russia does not look at Canada “through the optics of geopolitical rivalry.”
“And besides, we are Arctic neighbours. It's always good when the neighbourhood turns out to be good, isn't it?” he said. “Here I would like to note the current Russian chairmanship of the Arctic Council, where we work with Canadians pragmatically and without politicisation on topical issues of the northern agenda.”
Russia has submitted an official request to increase its consular presence in Canada, but so far has not received a clear response, Stepanov added. According to him, Russia needs a wider consular presence in Canada and is going to work with the Canadian authorities to explore the possibility of opening a diplomatic mission in Vancouver.
“In 11 months of 2021, our bilateral trade turnover exceeded $2 billion - according to the results of 2020 - a little more than 1.2 billion. At the same time, Russian exports increased significantly,” he explained.
The envoy said Canadian businesses have a serious interest in Russia and stressed that Russia is open to mutually advantageous cooperation.
Oleg Stepanov was appointed to assume his current post in March 2021. Prior to that, he had been leading the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Foreign Policy Planning Department since 2016. Stepanov joined the Foreign Ministry in 1994 and has since served in several roles, including as political and military counsellor for the Russian Embassy in the United States.