Or did they?
The Russian Government has hotly denied that its diplomats were linked to Delisle, and claimed that they left Canada as part of a long-planned rotation of embassy staff.
As evidence they pointed out that Konstantin Kopalkov must have known of his departure well in advance – otherwise, how else would he have been able to hold his leaving party in Ottawa on December 8th last year.
Kopalkov also sent an email round to colleagues to tell them of his departure and to wish them well for their future. “Please be advised that I am leaving the country for good in the end of December, 2011,” he wrote, adding that he “would like to highlight that it was a real pleasure to work in Canada. I wish you all the best, well-being and prosperity!”
Delisle’s arrest and the subsequent expulsion of Russian diplomats has been headline news in Canada, prompting some great coverage of previous Russian spies in Canada – notably Gerda Munsinger, pictured below, who allegedly bedded a number of senior Conservative politicians in the 1950s.
However, in Russia, a country normally fascinated by its own spies, the story has hardly received any coverage at all.
Russia has dismissed the way that the affair has been handled, calling the news “sensational” and “unsubstantiated”, and the Canadian Government has also come in for criticism from its own media for its needless “Russophobia”.
Steven Harper, the Conservative Canadian Prime Minister, has come in for particular criticism for his Cold War mentality – according to Christopher Westdal, Canada’s former Ambassador to Russia, he “came with… baggage of deep suspicion of Russia” – and for placing more emphasis on impressing Canada’s large Eastern European immigrant population than on securing Canada’s wider national interests.
Interestingly, there has been little public criticism yet of Canada’s internal security arrangements, and of how Delisle managed to evade detection for so long.
Jeffrey Delisle, “Loner and Geek”
As is traditional in cases like this, the Canadian media has already begun to trot out the ‘Delisle was a loner’ stories. Ian Wilson, one of his former classmates, provided the obliging quote this time:
“He was probably one of the biggest geeks in the school. He definitely wasn’t an outgoing party animal type guy. He was one of those guys who was always under the radar.”
Delisle, who worked as an intelligence officer in the Canadian Navy and had access to secret data from other NATO countries, will go on trial shortly, accused of selling classified information to Russia between 2007 and 2001.
He was reportedly identified by Canadian intelligence some time ago, and for the past few years has been un-knowingly used to provide Russia with false information – turning him into what is described as a ‘sour-milk spy’. Some analysts have cast doubt on this story, however, noting that it may be an attempt to persuade Russia that the information it bought from Delisle was unreliable.