POLITICS

Russians Expelled From Canada After Spy Allegations: Reports

01/19/2012 10:26 EST | Updated 03/20/2012 05:12 EDT

Days after a Canadian officer was accused of spying, the Canadian government has reportedly sent Russian embassy staff home, according to media reports.

Jeffrey Paul Delisle, 40, is facing two charges under the Security of Information Act that deal with communicating information over the past five years that could harm Canada's interests. He appeared in court in Halifax on Monday and although it wasn't revealed what country was receiving the intelligence, Russia has been allegedly named, according to CTV.

On Thursday night, The Globe and Mail reported that two Russian diplomats and two other staff are no longer on a list of representatives.

Reports The Globe

The Russian embassy in Canada dismissed the suggestion that its diplomats or staff were expelled in reprisal for the Delisle case, saying any departures were part of a normal rotation of employees on foreign postings. They say the staffers in question returned home at the end of 2011.

“Their term of contract has expired. That’s all,” a Russian embassy official said. “It’s a planned shift of the diplomatic staff.”

CTV also says four embassy staff members sent home and the network named two of them, Lt.-Col. Dmitry Fedorchatenko and Konstantin Kolpakov. Read the rest of the story

CTV reports that Foreign Affairs John Baird's office is not commenting, saying the case is before the courts.

The TV news network adds:

According to the Geoffrey O'Brian, the former CSIS counter-intelligence chief, the colonel was likely the spy master of GRU, which is Russia's largest foreign intelligence agency.

"It is classically the military attaché that are classically the group from which GRU officers come," said O'Brian.

Earlier this week, the Defence Department said Delisle is a sub-lieutenant in the navy and an intelligence officer. Defence sources say he worked at CFB Stadacona's Trinity section, a naval communications and intelligence centre in Halifax that was a multi-national base with access to secret data from NATO countries.

A source told the Canadian Press that the Canadian Forces counter-intelligence branch is conducting a damage assessment as a result of this case.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson issued a statement on the charges, but didn't reveal any details about what information is alleged to have been disclosed.

"Notwithstanding the seriousness of these charges, the RCMP is not aware of any threat to public safety at this time from this situation," he said.

"This investigation demonstrates that Canada is not immune to threats posed by foreign entities wishing to undermine Canadian sovereignty.

With files from CP