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Michael Kovrig surfaces in Toronto for a COVID shot, haircut and finds he’s a celebrity

Orignally published on 2021-09-28 19:34:19 by vancouversun.com

Said barber Osman Veisi, ‘He said the last three years, he never had a haircut over there, they just shaved his head all the time’

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Two days after being freed from imprisonment in China, Michael Kovrig has surfaced publicly in Toronto and offered some timely advice to fellow Canadians.

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Kovrig visited a pharmacy – to receive a COVID-19 vaccination – and barbershop in the city’s east-end, earning an ovation from the drug store’s staff and kudos from barber Osman Veisi.

The tributes underscore that as well as surviving a harrowing ordeal, Kovrig and fellow, freed detainee Michael Spavor have now become celebrities of an unusual sort.

Kovrig’s sister had phoned to make the hair appointment for him, identifying him only as Michael and mentioning that he did not yet have a phone himself.

Veisi said he didn’t recognize the ex-diplomat when he arrived at his store.

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“I asked him why he didn’t have a phone, so he turned to his sister and said ‘Should I tell him the whole story.’ And she said ‘Why not?’” said Veisi in an interview Tuesday.

“We spend 40 minutes together. I gave him a good head massage, a good haircut. He said the last three years, he never had a haircut over there, they just shaved his head all the time. I said no problem, I will take care of you.”

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Veisi described Kovrig as being in “very, very good spirits, very good shape, very positive, very strong. Very healthy.”

Lawlor Pharmasave posted a photo of the former diplomat and a short video on its Facebook page, showing a slim but healthy-looking Kovrig entering the store as employees clapped.

“Today we had the pleasure of providing Michael Kovrig with his first dose of the COVID vaccine,” wrote the pharmacy. “We’re happy to have you back on Canadian soil.”

Saying that it was sharing the information and images with his permission, Lawlor also posted what it said was a quote from Kovrig: “I want everyone to know this, vaccines are the best way to combat this disease.”

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The Kingston Barbershop posted pictures of Kovrig getting his hair cut and giving a thumb’s-up sign.

“Today I had the pleasure to welcome Michael Kovrig to the shop and give him his first haircut on Canadian soil after nearly 3 years of being unlawfully detained in China,” wrote Veisi.

Kovrig, working for the International Crisis Group think tank, was detained by Chinese authorities in December 2018, days after the arrest of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on an American extradition request.

He and businessman Spavor, captured at the same time, were held in Spartan conditions and allowed next to no contact with the outside world until their release on Friday.

Their imprisonment was widely viewed as retaliation by Beijing and a bargaining chip in China’s efforts to get Meng out of Canada.

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Their freedom came on the heels of an agreement between U.S. prosecutors and Meng that saw her admit to misleading a bank about Huawei’s activities in Iran – the subject of fraud charges against her – in return for her release and a promise to drop those charges by Dec. 1, 2022.

In their efforts to refute allegations of “hostage diplomacy,” Chinese authorities insisted the “two Michaels” were released at the same time not as a result of the Meng Wanzhou deal reached that day, but because they both suffered health problems.

A grinning Kovrig, though, appeared well in the pharmacy and barbershop photos.

“He’s just a happy guy,” Veisi told the National Post.

Former diplomat Michael Kovrig, his wife Vina Nadjibulla and sister Ariana Botha walk arm in arm following his arrival from detention in China, at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, September 25, 2021.
Former diplomat Michael Kovrig, his wife Vina Nadjibulla and sister Ariana Botha walk arm in arm following his arrival from detention in China, at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, September 25, 2021. Photo by REUTERS/Chris Helgren

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Orignally published on 2021-09-28 19:34:19 by vancouversun.com

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