Canadian writer and politician of Ukrainian descent Chrystia Freeland was on Jan. 10 named as foreign minister of Canada, as that country’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, shuffled his cabinet.
The appointment comes just over a week ahead of the inauguration of U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump on Jan. 20.
Freeland describes herself as a Russophile, fond of Russian language and literature. But she has also been a harsh critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Trump admires.
Freeland has repeatedly criticized Putin’s regime for turning Russia into “an authoritarian and increasingly autarchic kleptocracy,” and for sparking war in eastern Ukraine.
In 2014, Moscow banned Freeland, along with other Western officials, from traveling to Russia, in retaliation for the sanctions imposed by the United States for the Kremlin’s annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.
Freeland studied and lived in Kyiv in the late 1980s and early 1990s when she began her career in journalism as a stringer for the Financial Times, the Washington Post, and the Economist. She also served as a Moscow bureau chief and Eastern Europe correspondent for the Financial Times.
Freeland entered politics in 2013 as a member of Canadian parliament for the Liberal Party. After former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted from Ukraine, she pushed for Canada to impose travel bans and economic sanctions against officials of the Yanukovych government.
From November 2015, Freeland served as a minister of international trade. During her time in that job, Ukraine and Canada signed a free trade agreement. In mid-December 2016, the deal was approved by the House of Commons, the lower house of the Canadian parliament. The ratification of the agreement will be completed after a third hearing and voting in the Senate of Canada, and also needs to be ratified by Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada.