Canada should prepare for Russia destabilization efforts: minister

Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, March 6, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s foreign affairs minister said on Monday that her country should be prepared for Russia to try to destabilize its political system, saying it would be similar to its efforts in the United States.

Chrystia Freeland, who is a critic of Russia and is barred from entering that country, was asked whether Russia had engaged in a smear campaign against her after negative articles appeared in pro-Russian media about her Ukrainian grandfather.

“It is public knowledge that there have been efforts, as U.S. intelligence forces have said, by Russia to destabilize the U.S. political system,” Freeland told reporters in Parliament.

“I think that Canadians and, indeed, other Western countries should be prepared for similar efforts to be directed at us.”

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded last year that Russia hacked and leaked Democratic emails during the 2016 presidential election campaign as part of an effort to tilt the vote in Republican Donald Trump’s favor. The Kremlin has denied the allegations.

On Monday, Canada said it would renew a military training mission in Ukraine for another two years.

In 2015, the former Conservative government sent about 200 troops to help train Ukrainian soldiers battling Russian-backed separatists and Canada has trained more than 3,200 soldiers since then, Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said.

“This assistance is crucial to ensure a sovereign, secure and stable Ukraine,” Sajjan said.

Three years of simmering military conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists have killed more than 10,000 people.

Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Peter Cooney