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Updated: Tue, 25 Feb 2014 15:54:10 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Justin Trudeau says he's apologized for Ukraine joke



Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau addresses delegates at the party's Biennial convention Saturday, February 22, 2014 in Montreal. Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press

Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau addresses delegates at the party's Biennial convention Saturday, February 22, 2014 in Montreal. Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press

Justin Trudeau has apologized for a joke he made about the situation in Ukraine on a popular Quebec television show.

Trudeau visited the Ukrainian embassy in Ottawa Tuesday morning, and personally told the ambassador he was sorry for the remark he made on Radio-Canada's Tout le monde en parle.

The Ukrainian ambassador, Vadym Prystaiko, told reporters waiting outside the building that Trudeau also signed a book of condolences, the first Canadian federal politician to do so, he noted.

"So far I haven't seen nobody from the Canadian government to come here to do the same," Prystaiko said.  But, he added, it wasn't important that government officials had not visited, but that Canada recognized Ukraine's new government as a legitimate government.

Meanwhile, CBC News has learned that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will soon announce specific measures Canada will take to support the transitional government of Ukraine.

Harper was to meet with members of the Canadian-Ukrainian community later Tuesday afternoon.

Prystaiko said he and Trudeau had talked about "what can be done right now in Ukraine, how Canada can assist Ukraine to become a state." He continued, "With everything he [Trudeau] said I was very pleased. I have to tell you that he is saying what we would expect from Canadian politicians."

In the book of condolences at the Ukraine Embassy, Trudeau wrote, "The people of Canada stand strong in support of our friends in Ukraine."

In French, he added he wants to engage in participating fully in the birth of a prosperous future for Ukrainians.

Trudeau was accompanied by his foreign affairs critic, Marc Garneau, who also signed the book, but neither spoke to reporters. The Latvian ambassador to Canada also signed.

Trudeau had tweeted earlier Tuesday, "I just spoke with @PaulMGrod of UCC. Told him I'm sorry to have spoken lightly of the very real threat Russia poses to Ukraine." Grod is president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

Barrage of criticism over joke

Trudeau has come under a barrage of criticism since he said Ukraine should be concerned about Russia's response to the popular uprising in Kyiv, partially because the Olympics host country would be angry it had just lost a hockey game. Russia had been eliminated from Olympic medal contention in men's hockey with a loss to Finland.

The reaction to Trudeau's remark, which sounded flippant, has become intensely political.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who is in Australia, issued talking points from his office Tuesday. Two of them addressed the situation in Ukraine; the other four were about Trudeau.

The final two points in the release said, "Trudeau apparently thinks the situation in Ukraine is something to joke about. We don't," and, "Once again, Justin Trudeau reminds us that he does not have the judgment to be prime minister. He is in way over his head."

Trudeau may have to further explain his comment about the threat Russia poses to Ukraine, at least to the Russians.

On Tuesday morning in Ottawa, Russia's ambassador to Canada, Georgily Mamedov, warned at a news conference that people shouldn't indulge in rumours about possible Russian intervention in Ukraine. He also said that there would be no Russian troops in Ukraine.

As he began to answer reporters' questions, Mamedov said, "I'm turning serious, because I know you don't appreciate jokes."

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