Ignatieff hounded on Ukrainian comments

PAUL TURENNE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

WINNIPEG -- Federal Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff continued to be hounded in Winnipeg yesterday by the Conservatives for comments they claim are anti-Ukrainian.

Hours before Ignatieff was to give a luncheon speech to the Canadian Club of Winnipeg at the Marlborough Hotel yesterday, Ryan Sparrow, head of media relations for the federal Conservatives, sent an e-mail to Winnipeg media highlighting passages from Ignatieff's book deemed by the Tories to be "anti-Ukrainian."

'Misinterpreted'

Following his speech yesterday, Ignatieff in turn accused the Tories of trying to spin his words to pit him against a people whom he says he respects greatly.

"It has been misinterpreted," said Ignatieff. "There are people I would like to offend, people I'd like to attack in public life, and Vic Toews is one of them. But if Vic Toews wants to pit me against the Ukrainian community, he's not going to succeed.

"I'm for Ukrainian independence. I celebrate Ukrainian independence. I have always regarded Ukrainians with respect."

Last month, Toews -- Manitoba's senior cabinet minister -- distributed a pamphlet in his Provencher riding attacking Ignatieff for statements contained in his 1993 book Blood and Belonging.

"Ukrainian independence conjures up images of embroidered peasant shirts, the nasal whine of ethnic instruments, phoney Cossacks in cloaks and boots, nasty anti-Semites," Ignatieff, an academic of Russian descent, wrote in the book.

"Somewhere inside I'm also what Ukrainians would call a great Russian and there is just a trace of old Russian disdain for these little Russians," he wrote in another passage.

Toews said yesterday he's heard Ignatieff's explanations that his words were twisted or taken out of context, but said he wasn't buying it.

'Never consistent'

"The explanations are never consistent," said Toews. "They are certainly anti-Ukrainian nationalist comments.

"Please tell me what the context for that would be."

Toews said he sent the pamphlet to his constituents because he felt it was important information for them to know.

paul.turenne@sunmedia.ca


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