Canadian embassy in Kyiv still shuttered despite ‘reopening’ in May

The Canadian embassy in Kyiv remains closed, despite being officially reopened in May. Ashleigh Stewart

The blinds are still drawn, and the gates remain padlocked at the Canadian embassy in Kyiv, almost three months after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hoisted the flag up the pole and announced the building’s official reopening.

Confusion persists over the meaning of the May 8 ceremony, which was timed to coincide with Trudeau’s visit to Ukraine to meet President Volodomyr Zelenskyy.

On a visit to the property this week, the only signs of life are three security guards crammed into a small outhouse down the side of the structure. Security guard Sergii Maier, who remained there while it was closed and was personally thanked for his service during Trudeau’s visit, is one of them.

A notice on the Canadian embassy’s front gate informs visitors that the building is closed due to the “security situation.” Ashleigh Stewart

A notice on the steel gates surrounding the building informs visiting Canadians that services are “temporarily suspended” due to the “security situation.”

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An email address is provided for those in Ukraine needing consular assistance, as well as the contact details for the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.

When Global News asked the security guards if we could go inside, they said it was closed and provided an email address to contact for assistance. When we asked if the building was staffed on any day of the week, they told us it was not.

Trudeau coy on full reopening

During his visit on May 8, Trudeau was not clear what “reopening” meant from an operational point of view, or whether Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine Larisa Galadza — who joined him at the ceremony — would reassume her office there.

During his speech, Trudeau commented about Galadza returning “when the embassy reopen[s].”

In his French translation, he said the embassy was reopening that day, and Galadza would start working there “now.” Asked by a journalist afterwards if the embassy was now officially open, Trudeau ignored the question.

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Click to play video: 'Canada’s reopening of embassy in Kyiv to have presence on the ground: Trudeau'
Canada’s reopening of embassy in Kyiv to have presence on the ground: Trudeau

Later, a press release announced the move marked the first step in the gradual resumption of diplomatic activities in Kyiv. Galadza and a team of staff members would resume diplomatic operations in the city, but consular and immigration services would continue to be provided in Poland and other European cities, the statement said.

Galadza is definitely back in Ukraine – she posted pictures to Twitter on Friday of her with Zelenskyy in Odesa overseeing grain exports – but it’s unclear where exactly she is based.

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Global Affairs Canada declined to answer specific questions about the embassy or Galadza’s work in Kyiv, other than to say she had returned to resume “in-person high-level diplomatic engagement.”

In a statement, they said that the presence of diplomatic personnel in Kyiv is currently at reduced capacity.

“We continue to assess the assignment of personnel in Kyiv as we look to gradually restore Canada’s full diplomatic presence and services, in due course.”

Canada and Ukraine's faulty relationship

In January, Zelenskyy admonished countries for ordering embassy staff and family members to leave the country – such as the United States, Great Britain and Canada – saying, “the captains are the last to be leaving the ship.”

The diplomatic relationship between Canada and Ukraine has been further tested in recent weeks due to Canada’s controversial decision to send parts of a Russian natural gas pipeline back to Germany.

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Trudeau reiterated Canada’s support for Ukraine against Russia, according to an official account of the discussion from the Prime Minister’s Office.

In Kyiv, that support is represented by a flag flown in front of a closed embassy.

But it could be worse – the flag could still be around the side of the building, half-hidden from view, where it was raised during Trudeau’s May 8 visit – after the mechanisms on the main flagpole at the front of the building repeatedly failed.

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