Liberal MP Irwin Cotler is one of the 13 Canadian officials who are now banned from entering Russia as part of its retaliatory sanctions against Canada over the annexation of Crimea. But according to Cotler, he didn’t have much interest in visiting anyway. That’s because during a trip to Russia in 2006, HE WAS POISONED!*
He told the story to Huffington Post Canada’s Althia Raj, detailing how he got ill after his meal one night:
“By the time, I got back to my hotel, I was violently ill. More than I had ever been almost in my life, and I started to throw up blood. I called the people in the hotel and told them I needed a doctor. Instead of sending a doctor, they sent up people to clean up all the blood — in other words, all the evidence that a doctor would need.
“I called the Canadian embassy in Moscow, and they sent a doctor and the doctor looked at me, examined me and told me I had to go right away to the hospital. And they took me into the Russian Medical Centre, the hospital in Moscow and I was held there for several days. I never knew exactly what was being done because I didn’t understand Russian and they didn’t speak English.
“But then, the final part about this, is rather intriguing. In 2010, during the Intra-Parliamentary Conference to combat anti-Semitism, I called the Russian Embassy in Ottawa because they hadn’t yet given us the names of their parliamentarians to attend the conference and they said, ‘Oh Mr. Cotler, we’re sorry. We want to get two high-ranking people so please call us next week and we will give you the names.’
“And I called them back the next week, and they gave me the names and then they said to me, ‘Why don’t you come visit us in Russia?’
“And I said, ‘You know, the last time when I was there, I was poisoned.’ And then, just like that, the answer was, ‘We’re sorry. That was a mistake, it won’t happen again.’
Crazy as this story sounds, Cotler has a long history as an anti-discrimination and human rights campaigner, most famous for his decades-long advocacy for Nelson Mandela’s freedom. He has also championed the causes of various Russian dissidents over the decades, so it’s not inconceivable that the country’s security agencies might have slipped a little extra poison into his borshcht.
Never fuck with Russia.