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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Vows Diplomat Will Pay For Canadian's Death

OTTAWA, Canada - Moscow's ambassador to Canada issued a public apology Tuesday after an apparently drunken Russian diplomat knocked down and killed a Canadian pedestrian and promised the man would face the full weight of justice back in Russia.

Vitaly Churkin said he was full of remorse after a car driven by first secretary Andrei Knyazev mounted a pavement in Ottawa on Saturday, killing a 50-year-old woman and badly injuring her female companion.

"Let me offer once again to you as Canadians, to the Canadian people, to the Canadian government and especially to the families of (the victims) our most sincere feelings of sympathy," he told a news conference, saying the accident had damaged Russia's relations with Canada.

"I would be surprised if this did not tarnish or color the attitude of Canadians to our embassy," he added, adding that he had been swamped with messages and phone calls from Canadians concerned about the case.

Canadian police immediately charged Knyazev with impaired driving but Moscow refused Ottawa's request to lift his diplomatic immunity, preferring instead to fly him home Monday to face an investigation in Russia.

A Russian embassy driver also suspected of drunk driving crashed his car Saturday in a separate incident and was recalled with Knyazev. Both men had attended an ice fishing party before the accidents.

"I can assure you there is no intention on our part at all to do something which would make things easier for Mr Knyazev, for him to avoid punishment or the severity of punishment which he should undergo under law for (his) offense," Churkin said.

But Churkin -- asked about comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday in which he criticized the country's diplomats for their poor behavior -- dismissed the possibility that Moscow might try to make an example of Knyazev.

"As to the scapegoat situation ... I don't think anybody, I don't think Canadians would like that to happen and I don't expect that to happen. What we want to see is justice served in this situation," he said.

Churkin, who declined to comment when asked whether Moscow might compensate the victims' families, said the fatal accident could help lessen the chances of such tragedies in future.

"We do believe there are one or two elements ... which we can suggest (to Moscow) as a result of this tragic accident which will make sure that before getting (into a) car to drive intoxicated, people will think twice," he said, but declined to give details.

Churkin said in early 1999 he had officially reprimanded Knyazev after his car bumped into another vehicle. Police were not called to the scene so it was impossible to say whether Knyazev had been drinking on that occasion.

Canadian Foreign Minister John Manley discussed the case with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov on Monday and urged him to lift the immunity of both diplomats.

"He gave me his assurance that after a full investigation the matter would be dealt with under Russian law. I'm taking him at his word with respect to that," Manley said on Tuesday.

The incident is similar to a fatal accident in Washington D.C., in early 1997, when Georgian diplomat Gueorgui Makharadze killed a teenager in an alcohol-related car crash.

In that case, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze waived the diplomat's immunity and Makharadze received a seven-to-21 year prison term in the United States for manslaughter. He was released last year to finish his sentence in Georgia.

Under the Vienna Convention, diplomats and their families can be charged with crimes, but are immune from prosecution and civil liability.