Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Blacklisted in U.S., Russian Railways Head Boasts of Canadian Connections

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Blacklisted in U.S., Russian Railways Head Boasts of Canadian Connections

Article excerpt

Russian Railways head's Canadian connections

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - One of the most influential members of Russia's business elite says the reason he's not on the Harper government's sanctions list is likely that Canadians, unlike others, are not "masochists."

Vladimir Yakunin, the powerful head of Russian Railways, made the comment Wednesday to The Canadian Press at an event ahead of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, which formally opens Thursday.

The former United Nations diplomat turned business tycoon has been sanctioned by the U.S. in retaliation for Russia's annexation of Crimea, but not by Canada.

Yakunin was asked whether his business relationships, particularly with Montreal-based train manufacturer Bombardier Inc., have shielded him from being blacklisted by Canada in the same way Washington has done.

"I suppose Canadians are not the same masochists, like, you know, Europeans," he said at a dinner involving news agency heads from around the world.

"This is jokingly answering your question. I consider that I am known enough in Canada as a promoter of the idea of collaboration."

Yakunin repeated earlier statements that suggest the international sanctions regime, which is up for renewal with the European Union in a few days, hurts Europe just as much as Russia.

He was blacklisted last year by the U.S. as part of the Obama administration's widening efforts to retaliate for Russia's annexation of Crimea last year.

He is one of at least two Russian businessmen with close ties to President Vladimir Putin who have been excluded from Canada's blacklist. The other is Igor Sechin, the head of Russia's state-owned energy company Rosneft, which owns about 30 per cent of an Exxon Mobil Corp. oilfield in Alberta.

They are not allowed to travel to America and their assets there have been frozen -- something Yakunin described as "illegal."

Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson has described Canada's regime of sanctions against Russia as being among the toughest in the world when it comes to the Ukraine crisis. …

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