CEEC Calls For Resignation of Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard

CEEC Calls For Resignation of Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard

August 12, 2022

TORONTO- The Central and Eastern European Council of Canada, representing the interests of 4.5 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European heritage calls on Amnesty International and Amnesty Canada to retract their recent report which justifies Russian war crimes against Ukraine and echoes Russian propaganda and disinformation narrative and for the resignation of Secretary General, Agnes Callamard.

The report published by Amnesty International, titled “Ukrainian fighting tactics endanger civilians” claims that Ukrainian forces “have put civilians in harm’s way by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in populated residential areas.” The report fails to recognize that, Ukrainian forces are required to be stationed inside urban areas under threat of Russian attack in order to defend them. The residents of villages, towns and cities in Central, Eastern and Southern Urkaine have endured shelling, arbitrary arrest, torture, systematic sexual violence and mass murder by invading Russian forces for the past six months – regardless of whether Ukrainian armed forces have been present or not. Using the twisted logic applied to this Amnesty report, the mere existence of Ukraine as a sovereign nation would be blamed for inviting invasion by Russian forces, and the presence of Ukrainian women in villages and towns occupied by Russian forces would be blamed for inviting sexual violence by Russian soldiers. 

Canadians expect Amnesty International to hold authoritarian regimes that engage in mass human rights and war crimes to account, not to justify them. The failure of Amnesty International to address the concerns of local staff about flaws within the report has led to the resignation of the head of Amnesty’s Ukraine chapter, Oksana Pokalchuk. 

The Amnesty report has been exploited by Russian government propagandists to justify its attacks on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure citing it “as proof that Ukraine was using civilians as human shields.”

This is not the first time Amnesty International has assisted Russia’s authoritarian government. In 2021, it removed Russian anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny, who had been poisoned and imprisoned by Russian authorities, from its list of political prisoners. Amnesty’s inexplicable downgrading of Navalny’s status represented a major victory for Vladimir Putin. Despite apologizing for turning a blind eye to Russian human rights abuse, Amnesty International has done more to an enable Russian violations of human rights and war crimes than to deter them.

The CEEC calls on Amnesty Canada to publicly reject Amnesty’s report and to impose mandatory training for its staff about the nature of Russian information and influence operations, and those undertaken by other unlawful authoritarian regimes. 

All war crimes require our attention, regardless of who has committed them. The growing list of atrocities committed by Russia’s invading forces must be investigated  and their perpetrators must be brought to justice. Any justification of Russian human rights abuse and war crimes – whether inadvertent, indirect or unintended – amounts to denialism.

For more information:  ceecouncilcanada@gmail.com

European Unity Day: United With Ukraine Photo Exhibition

TORONTO-  A new major exhibition featuring recent images from the war in Ukraine will be launched in Toronto’s City Hall on May 7th, 2022 and will be available for viewing by the public until May 13th. 

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its third month the unspeakable horrors imposed on the Ukrainian people by the invading Russian army continue to mount. Entire towns and cities have been destroyed by Russian bombardment and the refugees fleeing it are forced to evade Russian attacks. The democratic world has been shocked by Russian mass murder, systematic sexual violence and the targeting of civilian infrastructure over the past months. 

The photographs featured in the “European Unity Day in Toronto: United for Ukraine” exhibit hosted by the City of Toronto, feature the everyday experiences of Ukrainians who are scrambling to survive the barbaric invasion of their nation and the many who have not escaped its savagery.

The 30 “United for Ukraine” images have been captured through the lenses of leading Ukrainian photo journalists since the February 24th Russian invasion. The Exhibition also features photos from the first Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014 which were taken by acclaimed Los Angeles Times journalist, Sergei Loiko, and demonstrate that Russia’s war against Ukraine now spans 8 years.

The exhibition has been organized by the Central and Eastern European Council in Canada and the Estonian Central Council in Canada in partnership with the International Festival of Contemporary Photography Odesa Photo Days, the Estonian Museum Canada/VEMU (Toronto), Cotton Factory (Hamilton), OKAPI Gallery (Estonia) and the Canadian Association of Russian Journalists. 

“This exhibition represents a broad partnership with the Central and Eastern European communities in Canada and civil society groups that have generously provided the prints of these images,” said Kairi Taul-Hemingway, President of the Estonian Central Council. 

“We cannot look away from the atrocities being committed by the Russian invaders against innocent Ukrainians as Putin seeks to wipe out Ukraine’s freedom, democracy, culture and language,” Marcus Kolga, President of the Central and Eastern European Council in Canada said, “our own democracy and the freedom of our allies are at stake and are being defended by all Ukrainians today.”

The CEEC represents the interests of 4.5 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European heritage.  The millions of Canadians whose families fled Russian Soviet era and Nazi terror after WWII, are grateful for the freedom, democracy and opportunities that Canada has provided and are proud of their contributions to helping build the Canada we know today.

Public Launch:

Toronto City Hall Rotunda, Saturday, May 7, 2pm.

Images from the exhibition:

CEEC Calls For A Ban of all Russian State Media from Canada’s Public Airwaves

April 7, 2022

TORONTO- The Central and Eastern European Council in Canada (CEEC) calls on the Government of Canada to ban all Russian state media from weaponizing Canada’s public airwaves as part of its information warfare on Ukraine, NATO and Canada. Russian state media threatens to radicalize parts of the Russian speaking community in Canada with anti-Ukrainian rhetoric. 

The CEEC thanks Rogers Communication for voicing the company’s concerns about Russian state media in Canada in a recent submission to the CRTC: “In our view, it would be appropriate for the commission to also consider removing … any programming service that is either owned or controlled by a state that is subject to Canadian sanctions.”

In 2019, CBC News published a report about anti-Ukrainian narratives that were being promoted by Russian state media news channels on the RTR Planeta and Russia 1 channels which are both available on Canadian public cable and satellite airwaves. Another Russian state media report published on April 3, 2022, called for the de-Ukrainiainzation of Ukraine. 

Such anti-Ukrainian narratives have intensified over the past months and correspond with rising anti-Ukrainian crimes reported in Canada.

The CEEC, representing the interests of 4.5 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European heritage,  calls on the Canadian government to immediately end the Russian government’s ability to weaponize Canada’s public airwaves to broadcast disinformation and anti-Ukrainian hate on its government controlled and owned channels, by banning them from Canada and placing sanctions on all Russian owned media entities.

For more information:  ceecouncilcanada@gmail.com

CEEC Calls on Canadian Government To Place Sanctions on Corrupt Russian Oligarchs With Assets in Canada, and Russian State Media Broadcasting in Canada

February 22, 2022

TORONTO- The Central and Eastern European Council in Canada (CEEC) calls on the Canadian government to immediately impose consequences for Vladimir Putin’s illegal action against Ukraine, and his efforts to destabilize the alliance of Western democracies.

Canada must freeze the assets of Russian oligarchs and their companies operating in Canada in response to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukrainian territory. Oligarchs who have been identified by journalists as enabling and holding Vladimir Putin’s personal wealth, are known to have assets in Canada. This information is openly and publicly available. The CEEC calls on Canada to work with allies to prohibit dealings in Russian sovereign debt, ban Russia from the SWIFT international payments system, and ensure that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is canceled.

Additionally, we demand that the Canadian government terminate the broadcasting licenses of Russian state owned and controlled media in Canada, including RT English and French, RTR Planeta and RTVi to prevent them from broadcasting hate and disinformation targeting Canadian ethnic communities and Canadian democracy on Canadian airwaves as part of the Kremlin’s cognitive warfare against Canadians. Sanctions should be immediately imposed on RT, it’s editor Margarita Simonovna Simonyan and Rossiya Segodnya to prevent those entities from profiting from the broadcast of disinformation and processing payments to Canadian proxies who contribute to their information and influence operations.

The CEEC represents the interests of 4.5 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European heritage.

For more information:  ceecouncilcanada@gmail.com

Estonian Defence Forces training with a Javelin anti-tank system.
Estonian Defence Forces training with a Javelin anti-tank system.

CEEC Calls on Canadian Government to Immediately Deliver Defensive Weapons to Ukraine

TORONTO- The Central and Eastern European Council in Canada (CEEC) is deeply concerned about the growing threat of Russian military invasion of Ukraine and strongly urges the Canadian government to help deter Russian violence by immediately delivering defensive weapons to support the defence of Ukrainian sovereignty. 

Russian military offensives around the world over the past decade have demonstrated a complete absence of concern for civilians and often feature mass human rights abuses. Should Russia invade Ukraine, the CEEC believes that the casualties inflicted on the Ukrainian people by Russia’s leaders will be catastrophic. Although Canada must be prepared to support a massive wave of refugees fleeing a Russian invasion, the government of Canada must act now to do all that it can to prevent such a situation.

While the supply of non-lethal weapons is welcome, the defence of Ukraine requires weapons that can stop Russian bombers and attack helicopters from terrorizing Ukrainian civilians and stopping armored weaponry that are capable of laying waste to urban centers. Canada should immediately follow the lead of the United Kingdom and United States, by delivering surface-to-air and anti-armor weapons systems to Ukraine.

Canada should also take leadership in the application of deterrent sanctions. This includes sanctioning associates of Vladimir Putin and his kleptocratic government who are already sanctioned by our allies but are absent from Canada’s Magnitsky sanctions list. Canada must immediately target the Russian oligarchs who directly enable Vladimir Putin and keep their significant wealth in Canada. Targeting Putin’s own wealth and those who support him will provoke an immediate change in the Kremlin’s calculus for war.

Finally, the Canadian government must immediately create a task force to defend the Canadian information environment and our democracy against Russian and other foreign influence and disinformation. Over the past weeks and years, Russian state media and its proxies in Canada have waged a targeted campaign against the Central and Eastern European communities in Canada with hateful narratives that are intended to deny their histories and discredit them in order to silence their voices. We urge the Canadian government to take immediate action to address the growing threat of Kremlin information warfare against Canada. 
The CEEC represents the interests of 4.5 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European Heritage.

For more information:  ceecouncilcanada@gmail.com

An overview of Russian ground-force equipment in Yelnya, Russia, on November 9, 2021. Photo: RFE/RL
An overview of Russian ground-force equipment in Yelnya, Russia, on November 9, 2021. Photo: RFE/RL

CEEC Calls On Canada To Adopt Measures To Deter Kremlin Aggression Against Ukraine

TORONTO- The Central and Eastern European Council in Canada (CEEC) is deeply concerned by the Russian Federation’s dramatic troop buildup and military escalation along its borders with Ukraine and the Belarusian border in northern Ukraine.

The CEEC calls on the Canadian government to work with our NATO allies and adopt greater measures to impose costs on the Russian government’s hybrid warfare and deter its neo-imperialist ambitions. 

Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. Crimea and parts of the eastern Ukrainian oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk remain under illegal Russian occupation. 

Vladimir Putin has now amassed over 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders which may soon be ordered to invade further into Ukraine in the coming weeks or months. 

The 4.5 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European heritage stand with the Ukrainian people and their nation’s aspiration to become a modern European democracy. We strongly urge the Canadian government, our Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of Defence, to suggest and adopt measures to deter the threat of Russian warfare against Ukraine and against NATO’s eastern member states. We suggest the following measures: 

  1. Immediately renew and increase Canadian and allied military training missions to Ukraine and provide surplus Canadian defensive weapons systems, including naval defence, anti-tank and anti-artillery systems. Canada should increase its commitment to the NATO EFP in Latvia as well.
  2. Apply pressure on Germany to cancel the Nord Stream II pipeline immediately. The completion of this pipeline would allow Russia to use natural gas supplies as leverage against Canada’s European allies and a weapon against Ukraine and other NATO allied nations in Eastern Europe.
  3. Increase sectoral economic sanctions on Russia and apply sanctions on the Russian oligarchs who enable the Putin regime, specifically those with significant assets and interests in Canada. Those oligarchs that have been identified by Russian anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny should be prioritized.

Finally, Canadian officials must realize that Vladimir Putin’s objective is not greater cooperation or making deals with Canada or any of our allies. Putin’s aim is to assert complete control over his people and the world around him through repression, corruption, intimidation, and violence. Since coming to power in 2000, Putin has demonstrated that compromise only emboldens him and encourages further aggressive behaviour. 

A strong Canadian voice, presence and deterrence, will help protect vulnerable democracies in Eastern Europe and stop the march of Putin’s neo-imperialist authoritarianism in Europe and beyond.  

The CEEC represents the interests of 4.5 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European Heritage.

Statement on Kremlin-Supported Efforts By Belarus to Destabilize Border with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania

The Central and East European Council in Canada voices deep concern regarding recent provocations manufactured by the Lukashenka Regime in Belarus – with the vocal support of the Russian Federation – along Belarus’ border with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. 

In recent months, the Belarusian security forces have been deliberately facilitating and profiting from the illegal smuggling of refugee claimants through its own country in a deliberate attempt to force their illegal entry into the European Union via Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. This effort is widely acknowledged as a political response to the support that the Belarusian opposition has received from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and the European Union as they continue to go up against the regime’s election fraud perpetrated in the aftermath of the 2020 Belarusian Presidential election and support free Belarusian civil society leaders, activists and journalists. 

We condemn the Lukashenka regime’s escalating abuse of human rights and stand in solidarity with our NATO allies as they face this unprecedented provocation. We also take this opportunity to remind the Government of Canada that this effort is part of a broader plan by the Putin and Lukashenka regimes to destabilize NATO and the European Union. We must remember that similar provocations led to the Russian occupation of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, and we, therefore, urge our government to stand resolutely with the European Union in opposing this latest act of aggression by the Lukashenka regime.

“We urge the Canadian government to condemn Belarus’ exploitation and weaponization of innocent migrants, and to support our allies should they invoke NATO Article 4 consultations to address the threat against the integrity of NATO’s borders,” said CEEC President, Marcus Kolga.

Canada currently leads NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence mission in Latvia and Operation Unifier in Ukraine.

The CEEC represents the interests of 4.5 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European Heritage.

We issue this statement in coordination with our partners the Central and East European

Coalition in the United States.

The U.S.-Germany Nord Stream 2 Joint Statement Raises Concerns

Nord Stream 2 Pipeline. Source: Nord Stream 2

Serving on behalf of 25 million Canadians and Americans of Central and East European heritage, The Central and Eastern European Council in Canada and the U.S.-based Central and East European Coalition express serious concern regarding the Joint Statement of the United States and Germany on Support for Ukraine, European Energy Security, and Our Climate Goals, which addresses the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. If the pipeline is completed, the Russian Federation will use this coercive tool to advance its geopolitical goals and influence in Europe. The statement does not specify what action would be taken by Germany should the Kremlin weaponize its energy sector against Ukraine and the rest of Europe. We believe that this agreement with its ambiguous language and objectives is inadequate in addressing the threat posed by the Kremlin’s aggressive behaviour and violates our commitments from the Budapest Memorandum of 1994.

To demonstrate that the Biden and Trudeau administrations value the relationships with our European allies, their policies should clearly reflect their intent to jointly counter the hostile behaviour of the Russian Federation. Unfortunately, the Joint Statement does little to address the threats that Nord Stream 2 poses to the energy security of Central and Eastern Europe. We assert that the relationships that Canada and the U.S. maintain with many of the countries in this region, whose diaspora communities our organizations represent, may be harmed because of this arrangement. In order to resolutely counter Russia’s belligerent influence in Europe, we urge the U.S. and Canada to work with our European allies to develop and adopt a concrete and comprehensive plan of response.

The language in the Joint Statement and its potential implications only intensify our trepidation. The Biden and Trudeau administrations must continue implementing sanctions and encourage our allies in Europe to enact similar measures, to prevent the finalization and use of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. On the anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of August 23, 1939, we call on our respective administrations to honour the history of our partners in Central and Eastern Europe by denouncing the completion and use of this political pipeline.

Canadians of Central and Eastern European Heritage Stand With the People of Belarus on Freedom Day

March 25, 2021

TORONTO – The CEE Council in Canada, representing the interests of 4.5 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European Heritage stands with the people of Belarus on the nation’s March 25 Freedom Day, and urges Canada to expand Magnitsky sanctions against the illegitimate and repressive regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

The people of Belarus and Canadians of Central and Eastern European heritage have been calling for fair elections, freedom and human rights for the past eight months where thousands of Belarusians have been violently arrested, beaten and detained. We call on the Canadian government to monitor upcoming protests and to hold regime officials who engage in human rights abuses to account.

The CEEC thanks the Government of Canada for pledging $2.25 million to support the development of Belarusian civil society organizations and independent media, earlier this year.

The CEEC calls on the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Foreign Affairs Canada, to work with the U.S. and other international partners to facilitate a mediation and negotiation process led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations. 

According to The Belarusian Canadian Alliance and Belarusian opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, 32,000 Belarusians have been detained, 2,500 criminal cases have been initiated, 1,000 cases of torture have been documented by human rights NGOs, and 290 people are currently being held as political prisoners. At least eight protesters have been killed, and no government officials have been held accountable for the violence.

For more information ceecouncilincanada@gmail.com

CEEC Condemns the Arrest of Vladimir Kara-Murza and Russian Activists in Moscow

March 14, 2021

TORONTO – The Central and Eastern European Council in Canada, representing the interests of 4.5 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European heritage, condemns the arrest of Russian pro-democracy and human rights activist Vladimir Kara-Murza and over 200 of his colleagues in Moscow today.

Vladimir Kara-Murza has twice been targeted for assassination by the FSB for his activism. A recent report by Bellingcat exposed the Russian government’s involvement through the same FSB assassination team, that poisoned Alexey Navalny in August 2020. Vladimir Kara-Murza has testified in Canada’s Parliament about the human rights situation in Russia on numerous occasions and screened his documentary film about his colleague and friend, assassinated Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

The government of Canada must reverse its failure to join our allies in applying Magnitsky sanctions on Russian officials responsible for the poisoning of Navalny. By failing to apply sanctions, Canada implicitly enables human rights abuse and political repression by regimes like that of Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin’s actions are not limited to the repression of Russian activists. The Globe and Mail reported that Putin associate and oligarch, Yevgeni Prigozhin has used his Internet Research Agency – the same group responsible for interference in the 2016 US Presidential elections-  to target issues of Canadian national interest. Prigozhin is on the UK, US, EU sanctions lists and the FBI most wanted list, but not on Canada’s sanction list. Russian state media and Putin aligned oligarchs and proxies have actively sought to discredit and intimidate critics of the Kremlin in Canada over the past years.

The CEEC reiterates its calls on the Canadian government to join our allies to place Magnitsky sanctions on members of the Putin regime who are responsible for the poisoning of Russian anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny in August 2020, his incarceration on January 18, 2021 and the detention and poisoning of Vladimir Kara-Murza.

“Canada is a nation that believes in the need to defend global human rights, which is why we led among our allies in adopting the Sergei Magnitsky Law in 2017,” said CEEC President Marcus Kolga. “By failing to use it to protect activists like Vladimir Kara-Murza and Alexey Navalny, we fail them, our allies and our sacred commitment to defending human rights.”

For more information: ceecouncilincanada@gmail.com

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