New Alberta premier apologizes for Ukraine comments

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — The leader of the Canadian province of Alberta apologized Tuesday for what she called “ill-informed” comments on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and said her views have “drastically evolved.”

Danielle Smith, the new premier of Alberta and leader of the United Conservative Party, opined on social media earlier this year that there may be parts of Ukraine happier to break away from the mother country.

On a livestream chat on April 29, Smith said: “The only answer for Ukraine is neutrality,” adding she understands why Russia would have a concern with a western-aligned Ukraine armed with nuclear weapons on its doorstep. Ukraine surrendered its nuclear weapons in the 1990s.

In a Feb. 24 post, she said: “I’ve read that two regions of Ukraine feel more affinity to Russia. Should nations be allowed to break away and govern themselves independently? If that’s truly what people want, then I think so. But is that what the people want — or is it propaganda?”

Smith said she now categorically condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Prior to re-entering politics earlier this year, I made some ill-informed comments on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. My knowledge and opinion of this matter have drastically evolved since that time, and I apologize for those previous comments,” Smith said in a statement.

Smith has also been criticized for saying she believes people unvaccinated for COVID-19 are the most discriminated group she has seen in her lifetime. She made the remark after being sworn in as premier earlier this month. She has since said she didn’t mean to trivialize prejudice faced by minority communities.

Smith was sworn in as Alberta’s new premier on Oct. 6 after the United Conservative Party elected her in a leadership race to replace Jason Kenney as leader and premier. Kenney announced he was quitting months earlier following an uninspiring 51% vote of support in a party leadership review.

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