A translator for Ukraine’s prime minister who attended high-level meetings with Justin Trudeau and other senior Canadian officials has been arrested for allegedly spying for Russia.
Stanislav Yezhov who translated for Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman during meetings in three Canadian cities in October was arrested in Ukraine and accused of treason, Ukrainian media reported on Wednesday.
Yezhov also translated for Ukrainian officials during meetings with British Prime Minister Theresa May, raising questions about how interpreters with access to potentially classified conversations are vetted by governments, and ongoing espionage operations between Russia and western countries.
“The official had access to insider information about the Cabinet of Ministers,” the head of Ukraine’s counterintelligence department, Oleksiy Petrov, told a local television station, the Kyiv Post newspaper reported. “And he responsibly and diligently worked for the Russian special services.”
Ukrainian media reported that he was sending information to Russian intelligence through electronic communications channels.
It’s unclear exactly what information from Canada Yezhov is accused of passing to Russia’s FSB, the spy agency where Russian President Vladimir Putin cut his teeth before entering politics.
When visiting Canada, Ukraine's prime minister told CBC news the two countries discussed adding Ukraine to a list of countries where Canada can export weapons.
Ukraine was eventually approved as an export destination for Canadian arms, government officials announced this month.
That decision, and the nature of any weapons purchased by Ukraine, would likely be of interest to Russian intelligence.
Russia and Ukraine have been embroiled in a conflict since 2014 when pro-Moscow rebels annexed the Crimean peninsula which had been part of Ukraine since 1954. Intermittent violence between forces loyal to Ukraine’s government and pro-Russian forces still simmers in eastern Ukraine.
News of the alleged espionage broke while Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland was visiting Ukraine for meetings with officials. Freeland has not commented on the arrest on social media and has not responded to media requests for interviews on the issue.