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Why is Canada’s top diplomat, Chrystia Freeland, banned from Russia?

Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s newly-minted top diplomat, is banned from entering Russia.

The new foreign affairs minister is a recognized face in the United States, where she was once based during her career as a journalist and has frequently appeared on television shows including Real Time with Bill Maher and The Colbert Report, and on radio.

There, Canada has already been defending its interests ahead of president-elect Donald Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

Canada will also be considering its relations with Russia after years of tough talk from the previous Conservative government following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

But Freeland has’t been allowed to set foot there for almost three years, since she was among the 13 Canadians placed on a sanctions list as part of Putin’s retaliatory measures to Western sanctions.

Freeland, a Toronto MP of Ukrainian descent, had only been an MP a few months before Russia slammed the door on her.

So what did she do to earn herself a place on the list?

Prior to entering the political fray, Freeland was a financial journalist who had worked and lived in Moscow for several years, and offered frequent, sharp criticisms of Putin.

She had called him an authoritarian, an autocrat and “really dangerous.”

Further, a close friend of hers, Bill Browder, who is also an internationally prominent critic of Putin, has said Freeland has long “favoured very strongly” his call to deepen sanctions against Russia.

Specifically, Browder has lobbied for sanctions on Russians who have violated human rights.

The day she was banned from Russia. Freeland responded on Twitter, saying she considered the sanction an honour.

This week, after she was named foreign affairs minister, Freeland said if her inability to travel to Russia was an issue, it would be something for Moscow to deal with.

A Russian news agency reported Wednesday that Russia would be willing to lift the ban on Freeland if Canada lifted its sanctions. Freeland’s spokesperson said Canada is not interested in bargaining on the subject.

With files from Reuters and The Canadian Press

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