Canada closes embassy in Ukraine

Anti-government protesters stand behind burning barricades in Kiev's Independence Square February...

Anti-government protesters stand behind burning barricades in Kiev's Independence Square February 19, 2014 REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Daniel Proussalidis, National Bureau

, Last Updated: 6:52 PM ET

OTTAWA – Canada has temporarily shut down its embassy in Ukraine.

"The Embassy of Canada in Kiev is closed until further notice for security reasons," an embassy official said in a recorded message for anyone calling the diplomatic outpost.

Foreign Affairs officials said emergency consular services are still available for Canadians in Ukraine.

The embassy's closure came late Tuesday after protesters entered it to seek shelter amid a police crackdown in Kiev that left 26 people dead.

It's not clear if the protesters are still at the embassy after one of the worst days of violence during months of protests against the Ukrainian government's decision to reject a European Union trade deal in favour of closer ties with Russia.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) responded to the violence by organizing a small midday vigil Wednesday on Parliament Hill with prayers and mournful singing to honour those who died.

"The reason why I'm here today (is) simply to raise awareness and to appeal to the Government of Canada to take action finally," Mike Ryndzak said, as he held a sign with pictures of people allegedly been beaten by police.

The UCC said Canada should impose financial sanctions on members of Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich's government, deport anyone in Canada who is connected to the regime and send observers to Ukraine.

"Canada is an honest broker in the region," UCC executive director Taras Zalusky said, Ukrainian and Canadian flags fluttering behind him.

He also said Canada can help convince allied countries to get tougher on the "those who are ordering the use of live ammunition on the civilian population" in Ukraine.

Conservative MP Costas Menegakis attended the vigil, saying he wanted to stand with them during Ukraine's time of crisis.

"I'm pleased that our government is deploying more medical supplies and first aid kits to assist those in the opposition (in Ukraine)," Menegakis said. "As a government we call on Yanukovich and his regime to exercise their legal obligation to allow peaceful demonstration and to allow a peaceful negotiation to take place."

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar has said Prime Minister Stephen Harper should step in directly.

"The prime minister should personally call (Ukrainian) President Yanukovich to make clear to him that the repression and abuses in Ukraine are repugnant," Dewar said in a statement.

Late Wednesday, Yanukovich offered a “truce” to protesters, promising “negotiations with the aim of ending bloodshed.”

Canada has threatened Ukraine's government with sanctions if violent crackdowns on protesters in Kiev continue.

"I will also be consulting our allies and like-minded nations to build a co-ordinated path forward in the coming days," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement Tuesday. "All options remain available, including through the deployment of targeted sanctions against those responsible."

A foreign affairs spokesman confirmed the threat of sanctions is still on the table, despite the proposed truce.

The U.S. has already started preparing for sanctions, while France and Germany discussed the option Wednesday.

Ukraine's embassy in Ottawa couldn't be reached for comment.

-- with files from Reuters

 


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