Politics

Adrienne Clarkson returns Russian Order of Friendship to protest Ukraine invasion

Former governor general Adrienne Clarkson has formally returned her Russian Order of Friendship to protest Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Medal is the highest decoration that can be awarded to a non-Russian citizen

Then-Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson and Russian President Vladimir Putin stand together during a welcoming ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on December 18, 2000. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

Former governor general Adrienne Clarkson has formally returned her Russian Order of Friendship to protest Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In a letter addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin dated March 2, 2022, Clarkson announced her plans to return the medal — a state decoration awarded to those who have improved international relations with Russia.

"You should not have invaded Ukraine," says the letter, which Clarkson shared with CBC News.

"I am returning the medal herewith."

Clarkson was given the order in 2006. She travelled to Russia on a state visit during her time as governor general and also hosted Putin at Rideau Hall in December 2000.

Clarkson and Putin planted a maple tree in a ceremony on the grounds of Rideau Hall during his visit to Canada.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a thumbs-up to Gov.-Gen. Adrienne Clarkson after planting a maple tree on the grounds of Rideau Hall on December 18, 2000. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

Former prime minister Jean Chrétien and longtime MP and senator Marcel Prud'homme are among the other Canadians who have received the order.

CBC News has contacted Chrétien about his plans for the medal. Prud'homme died in 2017.

Other Canadian recipients include George Cohon, the founder of McDonald's Canada who helped open the first McDonald's restaurant in Russia, and John Durrant, a professor of Russian literature at Memorial University.

The Order of Friendship was established in 1994 by former Russian president Boris Yeltsin. It is the highest Russian decoration that can be awarded to a non-citizen.

With files from Philip Ling

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