Ottawa, May 30 (RFE/RL) - Canada has started deportation proceedings against a Russian couple it says are spies and agents of the Russian Security Service.
Canadian Immigration Department spokesman Daniel Oliver says the pair has been living in Canada since 1988, using the names of two dead Canadians, Ian and Laurie Lambert.
Oliver says a deportation order has been signed by the Solicitor General and the Minister of Immigration. The pair appeared before a federal court judge in Ottawa on Wednesday who found enough evidence to proceed with the deportation hearing.
Oliver says they were arrested late last week for being in Canada under false pretenses. He says the two "still claim to be Canadian citizens and have hired a lawyer." The proceedings were closed to the public.
If the judge finds there is enough evidence to prove they are spies, the two will go before the Immigration and Refugee Board for a deportation hearing, according to Oliver. He says they are entitled to an appeal.
A spokesman for the Solicitor General's office, Dan Brien, says the couple entered Canada "with fake Canadian passports bearing the identities of two dead Canadians." He claims that Canada's intelligence agency -- the Canadian Security Intelligence Service -- was aware that the Russians were in Canada. However, the agency will not discuss the case.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy told Parliament on Wednesday that he will raise the issue with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov next week when the two will be attending a NATO meeting in Berlin. He says he will stress that sending spies to Canada will hurt economic and political relations. "I don't want to have it happen again. I will raise the fact that this is not a helpful or constructive way to develop good relations."
In another case, police in Toronto have arrested two Russians they suspect were involved in the firebombing last week of a house belonging to a Russian emigre. Police believe the two men are members of Russia's national security police. They were arrested over the weekend as they were preparing to board a flight for Moscow at Mirabel Airport, north of Montreal. According to Toronto police, Andrei Jouravlev and Pavel Zatrouskine are being detained until a bail hearing on Friday.
A mansion in Toronto owned by a Russian immigrant businessman, Arkadi Kazantsev, was badly damaged by a firebomb late last week. Inspector David Douglas of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police says the force's Eastern Europe Organized Crime Unit is investigating reports that "the fire may have been part of an extortion attempt against Kazantsev over a 1.5-million-dollar loan he had from a Russian bank."