Joly says Russian ambassador spreading war 'propaganda' to Canadians
Russian ambassador's office says Joly is exhibiting 'deficiencies of professionalism'
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly on Monday accused the Russian ambassador to Canada of spreading misinformation and propaganda to the Canadian public but said she has no plans to expel him from the country.
Joly described the increasingly frosty relationship between Ottawa and Russian ambassador Oleg Stepanov during an interview on CBC's Power & Politics.
She said Stepanov has sought to amplify Russian President Vladimir Putin's campaign of misinformation about the war, which the Kremlin has described as an operation to stamp out modern-day Nazism and defend Russia from Western imperialism.
"Unfortunately, the ambassador to Canada from Russia has been providing propaganda to the Canadian public and that is extremely problematic," she said from Berlin, a day after making a surprise visit to Kyiv to re-open the Canadian embassy.
"That being said, we know that the Canadian public is able to see through the lies of Vladimir Putin."
WATCH: Joly calls Russia's war against Ukraine a failure
Joly said she spoke to Stepanov only once during the early days of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February. Stepanov spoke on one other occasion to Joly's deputy minister Marta Morgan following reports of war crimes by the Russian military against civilians in Bucha.
Joly did not suggest any plan to expel Stepanov from Canada — in part because she said expelling the Russian diplomat likely would lead to the expulsion of Canadian diplomats from Moscow.
Stepanov's office refuted Joly's comments about his communications to the Canadian public.
"His responsibility, among other things, is to convey his opinion and the position of Russia to the Canadian public," Stepanov's office wrote in an email to CBC News.
"Labelling serves nothing and often just demonstrates certain deficiencies of professionalism in diplomacy."
The Russian embassy said Stepanov is open to further meetings with Canadian officials "when one of the sides or both of them deem such level of communications useful."