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‘Read Leo Tolstoy:’ Highlights from the Russian ambassador to Canada’s press conference

OTTAWA – It was supposed to be a press conference heralding Russia’s results at the Paralympic Games in Sochi.

And Georgiy Mamedov, Russia’s ambassador to Canada, did address the games.

“We lost to the Americans in hockey, sledge hockey, so this is probably the only thing that will cast a shadow on our tremendous sports success in Sochi,” he said.

But the media availability, which clocked in around feature-film length, quickly turned to other, slightly more pressing issues: Crimea, sanctions, a recent stabbing near the Russian embassy.

“I hear you have some questions to your humble servant,” Mamedov told a room of reporters at the Russian embassy in Ottawa.

“I would be happy to accommodate you. Ladies are always first, so don’t be afraid.”

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Here are the top Mamedov quotes. Although we’re sure there’s more.

On sanctions:

“I’m an old man. I’ve been around. I’ve seen a lot of sanctions. I remember when people sanctioned us, and threatened us with isolation because we were fighting Taliban. Now it’s your turn to fight Taliban and we are not threatening you with sanctions.”

“The longest border in the world that we have is with China. Not with Belgium and not with Canada, unfortunately.”

On whether sanctioned Russian officials have assets in Canada:

“I am not with FBI, I am not with KGB, you know. I am not looking for other people’s assets. I don’t have assets here. I don’t take bribes so I don’t have to be afraid of anything. I am probably better prepared for new period of tension than many people you happen to know.”

On Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s upcoming visit to Ukraine:

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“Will it egg on the radicals that would like nothing better than to prolong an intensified confrontation with Russia? That’s my only question, because I only proceed from common sense.”

On boycotting the G8:

“You should ask yourselves, is it the charity for Russia to fight terrorism or to help Americans with the face-saving in Afghanistan right now, or to conclude successful negotiations with Iran to deny them in future nuclear weapons? Answer this question for yourself, you know, and you will understand. Who wants that? Who needs that? Everybody.”

“It will hurt world stability. It will prevent us from moving on issues that are challenging security of all our countries.”

On the stabbing of a Russian diplomat, allegedly by a Canadian Forces reservist:

“Next time I will suggest to my people, never to turn his back on a Canadian.”

 On why the diplomat, now in Russia, won’t return to Canada:

“I won’t risk his life twice.”

On Crimea:

“There is jubilation there.”

“People there want to return back home after all this 60 years imposed by Communist oppression in the Soviet Union. They remember their roots and they remember their history.  If you don’t believe me, if you don’t believe Putin who you demonize and vilify, read Leo Tolstoy.”

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Watch: Georgiy Mamedov, Russia’s ambassador to Canada, tells reporters during a press conference at the Russian embassy why they should read Leo Tolstoy to understand Crimea’s place in Russia. 

On staying calm:

“Take it easy, take it from me who unlike many of you young people really lived through difficult periods of Cold War when we were on the verge of confrontation with the United States. There won’t be any military conflict, there won’t be any war between us and NATO, or between somebody else. But there will be a certain period of hysteria. The sooner it’s over, the better.”

On the media:

“I also want to use this opportunity to appeal to you, my friends from press, try and be responsible in what you write. Because it can be very exciting for some people. And I remember what one of my friends from the press told me that pen – pen sometimes can be as deadly as a knife.”

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On…some other stuff:

“I have enormous respect for ladies.”

“I admire what you do here, for invalids. Not only sport, but everybody.”

“My mother was Jewish, so you know the tradition is to answer a question with question.”