06/17/2015 16:52 EDT | Updated 06/17/2016 01:12 EDT

Blacklisted in U.S., Russian Railways head boasts of Canadian connections

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - One of the most influential members of Russia's business elite says the reason he's not on the Harper government's sanctions list is likely that Canadians, unlike others, are not "masochists."Vladimir Yakunin, the powerful head of Russian Railways, made the comment to The Canadian Press at an event ahead of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, which formally opens Thursday.The former United Nations diplomat turned business tycoon has been sanctioned by the U.S. in retaliation for Russia's annexation of Crimea, but not by Canada.The Opposition New Democrats have complained about Yakunin's absence from the Harper government's sanctions regime.Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson, however, has billed Canada's sanctions against Russia as the toughest in the world.Yakunin says he's known in Canada as a promoter of co-operation and is personal friends with Bombardier CEO Pierre Beaudoin, with whom Russian Railways has a long-standing joint venture.