Once upon a time a man was poisoned in Russia. Irwin Cotler, Canadian Liberal MP (Member of Parliament), was that man, and he is now barred from entering the country. Not that he would want to go back. According to CBC News, Irwin was visiting Russia in 2006 with a delegation of parliamentary politicians and Joe Comartin of a different political party, the NDP. The men ordered identical meals, but when they returned to the hotel, Cotler became violently ill, more so than he had ever been, in fact; he was spitting up blood.
At that time the poisoned man called the hotel where he was staying to have a doctor sent to him, but instead, they sent cleaners to clean up the evidence. He then called the Canadian Embassy, who sent a doctor. He was rushed to hospital where he received treatment. Cotler explains in a recording found on CBC’s website that he flew straight home after, still feeling sickly, and to this day has no idea what they used to poison him. Whatever he ingested did not show up in tests.
Cotler goes on to describe an odd exchange he had with Russian officials in 2010 when he was organizing a conference on antisemitism in Ottawa. He asked who they would be sending as delegates, and later when he called back to get the list they asked him why he had not visited Russia recently. Half jokingly, he said that he had been poisoned on his last visit. Whoever he was speaking to had the nerve to say sorry, it was a mistake and that they did not mean for it to happen. A mistake? Accidentally bringing the wrong food is a mistake. Bringing someone dinner laced with poison is called attempted murder in most other places.
The poisoned man in Russia, Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, explains that he was originally blacklisted by the country because back in 1979 he was there on behalf of political prisoners. He was arrested, expelled and in-fact barred at that time for life. They explained that this was due to his dealings with criminals (Russian human-rights leaders). About 10 years later he was allowed back into Russia with limitations.
The Huffington Post relates Cotler’s reaction at being blacklisted as one of happiness. He said he feels this is akin to wearing a badge of honor and that he is proud to be part of such good company, like the human-rights activists included in the ban. What apparently triggered this more recent attack on him while visiting was that he advocated for another Russian human-rights leader, Sergei Magnitsky who uncovered the largest corporate tax fraud in Russian history. Magnitsky was killed while in custody. He was 37. Cotler was trying to draw attention to this atrocity. It is well known that Russia does not appreciate having its dirty secrets laid out for everyone to see. It is also believed that shady practices of imprisonment happen fairly regularly there.
The latest imprisonment of Pussy Riot, a band known to be proponents of freedom of expression, caused an international stir. When they were beaten at the Olympics by Russian police, one of the ugliest sides of this country was spread worldwide. This, combined with the visiting man who was poisoned while in Russia, Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, makes one wonder if it is safe to travel there. To sum up, it is advisable to be very cautious in any dealings with this country, especially if one is a proponent of human rights.
Opinion by Nicole Drawc