OTTAWA, Canada—On Feb. 13, Dr. Oleg Kravchenko, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, delivered a lecture entitled “Belarus and its Neighbors,” at Carleton University’s Dunton Tower in Ottawa. Along with a significant number of Diplomatic representatives from various CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries, academics from the Carleton University’s Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (EURUS), analysts and students, representatives from the Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC) and the Armenian Students’ Association (ASA) of Ottawa were also present at the event.
A Q&A was held after the lecture during, during which Canadian-Armenian students and the ANCC’s Executive Director Sevag Belian asked a barrage of questions to Kravchenko, in regards to Israeli-Russian blogger Alexander Lapshin’s extradition from Belarus to Azerbaijan, as well as human rights violations in Belarus. According to the ANCC, Kravchenko became perplexed and gave contradicting answers to these queries.
During his lecture, Kravchenko drew similarities between Canada and Belarus. To the remark made by an ASA member that Canada is a democratic state, whereas the president of Belarus has ruled the country in an autocratic manner for more than 20 years, the Kravchenko responded by saying that there are no flawless countries.
Kravchenko was in Canada pushing for better relations between Minsk and Ottawa. He was, however, caught off guard when he was asked to answer questions regarding the Lapshin case. “During a one-on-one conversation with ANCC’s Belian, the Deputy Minister claimed that he had minimal information about the extradition, clearly indicating his discomfort to discuss such a disgraceful act by his country that has put the value of political expediency higher than freedom and human rights,” read a part of the statement released by the ANCC.
Lapshin, who holds a dual citizenship from Russia and Israel, is an active journalist and blogger who has visited the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh /NKR) and the Republic of Azerbaijan on multiple occasions. Through his independent reporting, Lapshin has supported the native Armenian populations’ call for self-determination and independence in Artsakh and has vehemently criticized the Azerbaijani government’s dictatorial tendencies in the region.
Lapshin has been accused of trumped up charges of insulting president Aliyev of Azerbaijan and for visiting the Republic of Artsakh. He was extradited to Baku on Feb. 7 and arrested upon arrival.