As Russia continued its second day of attacks on Ukraine, the ambassadors of Sweden and Finland have pulled out of an upcoming Arctic conference in Canada where Russian officials are also scheduled to attend.
The third annual Arctic360 Arctic Infrastructure Investment Conference takes place in Toronto March 9-11.
Featured speakers include a who’s who of Arctic diplomats, Indigenous leaders and CEOs.
Russian participants listed on the event website include Valerii Maksimov, senior trade commissioner of the Russian Federation in Canada, and Nikolay Korchunov, Russia’s ambassador at large for Arctic Affairs and the chair of the Senior Arctic Officials of the Arctic Council, the international forum that Russia now holds the two-year rotating chairmanship of.
On Twitter Friday afternoon, the Swedish embassy in Ottawa announced that Urban Ahlin, Sweden’s ambassador to Canada, would no longer attend:
The Swedish Ambassador to Canada will not be participating in this conference. We will ask the organizers to update the event info on their page.
— Sweden in Canada (@SwedeninCAN) February 25, 2022
Finland’s embassy in Ottawa also said on Friday that Roy Kennet Eriksson, Finland’s ambassador to Canada, was pulling out:
The ambassador of Finland will also not participate
— Finland in Canada (@FinlandinCanada) February 25, 2022
The embassies’ messages were in response to a tweet by Marcus Kolga, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an independent public policy think tank in Canada, saying he was concerned about Russian messaging that might come out of the conference:
Putin’s representatives are major participants at this upcoming Toronto Arctic 360 Conference. They must not be allowed to spread Kremlin disinformation about the Arctic. @NorwayinCanada @FinlandinCanada @SwedeninCAN @CanadaArctic @eyeonthearctic https://t.co/titAJyIgZ2
— Marcus Kolga 🇺🇦 (@kolga) February 24, 2022
A spokesperson from the Swedish embassy in Ottawa told Eye on the Arctic that beyond confirming Ambassador Ahlin was pulling out of the event, the ambassador had no further comment on the decision.
No one from the Finnish embassy could be reached for comment before publication of this story.
‘An important moment to discuss the Arctic Council’
Arctic360 is an independent think tank focused on Alaska, Canada and Greenland.
The first session of their conference is titled “The Arctic Council at 25: Looking at the Next 25 Years,” and was devoted to the Arctic Council, the international forum made up of Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.
Korchunov was scheduled to give the keynote introduction and the member nations’ diplomats were scheduled to participate in the session.
Conference organizers say the keynote will no longer go ahead and are now revisiting the session.
“We are refocusing the panel in light of current events, making it more relevant,” organizers said in emailed comment.
“We believe this is an important moment to discuss the Arctic Council and the future of its membership.”
Write to Eilís Quinn at firstname.lastname@example.org
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Britain offers Canadian military help to defend the Arctic, CBC News
Finland: Finnish Army exercises inter-agency readiness, Eye on the Arctic
Norway: Coercive diplomacy is back, says Norwegian FM as Russia announces drills in Nordic country’s Economic Zone, Eye on the Arctic
Russia: Northern Fleet stages war games to protect Arctic shipping, The Independent Barents Observer
Sweden: Nordic military cooperation takes shape with common uniforms, The Independent Barents Observer