Canada imposes new sanctions on Russian TV, media and head of Russian Orthodox Church

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Canada has imposed a new round of sanctions on Russia’s media machine designed to puncture disinformation campaigns about the war in Ukraine.

It has also imposed sanctions on Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyayev, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, who has preached favourably about the conflict, saying it has “metaphysical significance.”

Gundyayev–known as Patriarch Kirill–  is a powerful figure in Russia and its diaspora community and is much admired by President Vladimir Putin.

The patriarch has preached that it is “God’s truth” that the people of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia share one heritage and should be united.

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Canada has also targeted Russian news agencies, TV stations and journalists. Petr Akopov, who has written approvingly about Putin’s rationale for the invasion of Ukraine, and Tigran Keosayan, a pro-Kremlin television presenter, are among those on the latest list.

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In addition Ottawa launched a web page correcting disinformation about the invasion of Ukraine and “countering it with facts.”

Global Affairs Canada said in a statement that the site will be continually updated to “shed light on how the Russian regime is using lies to justify its illegal, unprovoked and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine.”

Its launch came as Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly told a meeting of the G20 that the world would “not accept Russia’s false narrative.”

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In a speech to the summit of foreign ministers in Bali, Indonesia, which is also being attended by Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, Joly said it was “shocking” to hear him use “pure propaganda to legitimize invading their sovereign neighbour, killing, raping women and men, and torturing its people.”

“We will not let Russia evade blame for this food crisis of their making,” she added. “Canada clearly rejects Russia’s assertion that sanctions are to blame. It is not so. Basically, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has thrown a wrench into global food supply chains.”

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While in Indonesia, Joly held talks with her G7 counterparts about the war in Ukraine, taking the lead in calling out Russian disinformation.

She also had a face-to-face meeting Friday on the sidelines of the G20 with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi. The impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine and the global food crisis were among the topics discussed

The face-to-face meeting will be seen by some as a thawing of fraught diplomatic relations between the two nations, following the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor from detention in China last year.

Joly also spoke to Wang in April in Germany when the two ministers agreed to keep communications channels open.

Also among the 29 people on Canada’s latest sanctions list is Vladimir Sungorkin, editor-in-chief of Komsomolskaya Pravda, described by Putin as his favourite newspaper.

Russian broadcaster RT was banned from Canada’s airwaves earlier this year after ministers accused it of spreading Kremlin-inspired propaganda about the invasion of Ukraine.

But the latest round of sanctions hits RT directly as well as Russian broadcasters Sputnik, Channel One Russia and the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK), whose chief executive, Oleg Dobrodeev, is also sanctioned.

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The long-established Russian news agency TASS is also on this latest list, as well as Gazprom Media, which owns a string of TV and radio stations.

The new sanctions list also includes Russian author and journalist Yevgeniy Prilepin, and TV host and documentary maker Arkady Mamontov as well as Irina Volk, a well-known Russian ministry spokeswoman.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Canada has imposed sanctions on more than 1,150 people and organizations in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

It has co-ordinated sanctions with allies in the European Union as well as with the United States and the United Kingdom to stop Russians from exploiting loopholes.

Global Affairs Canada said the fresh wave of sanctions against Russia targets “state-sponsored disinformation and propaganda agents.”

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In March, Joly joined many others in walking out of a United Nations meeting in Geneva when Lavrov, whom Canada had sanctioned days earlier, began speaking.

As announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the G7 summit late last month in Elmau, Germany, Canada has also banned certain gold imports from Russia.

This is to stop Russians from converting cash into gold to get around previous sanctions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 8, 2022.

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