Russia risks expulsion from G8: Harper

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu walk to watch military...

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu walk to watch military exercises upon his arrival at the Kirillovsky firing ground in the Leningrad region, on March 3, 2014. Crimea, the strategic host to tsarist and Kremlin navies since the 18th century, has been under de facto occupation by Moscow-backed forces since Putin won recently parliament's authorisation to send troops into Ukraine. AFP PHOTO/ RIA-NOVOSTI/ POOL/ MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV

Mark Dunn, Senior National Reporter

, Last Updated: 1:58 AM ET

OTTAWA — Canada was in lockstep with its allies Monday and threatened more limited sanctions against Vladimir Putin if the Russian president doesn't recall his troops from Crimea and stop meddling in Ukrainian affairs.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Russia risks being expelled from the G8 if it continues to occupy the Black Sea peninsula in violation of international law.

"President Putin's actions have put his country on a course of diplomatic and economic isolation that could well see Russia exit the G8 entirely," Harper said.

Canada and its G7 allies have already signalled they are considering boycotting G8 meetings in June in Sochi if Putin fails to heed calls to pull out.

"The situation in Ukraine remains extremely serious for global peace and security," Harper said. "Canada and its G7 partners have spoken with one voice in condemning President Putin's military intervention in Ukraine."


Military vehicles, believed to be property of Russian army, are seen near the territory of a Ukrainian military unit in the village of Perevalnoye outside Simferopol on March 2, 2014. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
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Canada is seen as a minor player in terms of what clout it has to convince Putin, a former KGB head, to stand down, but it is home to the third largest Ukrainian population in the world.

Besides recalling the Canadian ambassador from Moscow for talks and berating Moscow's ambassador in Ottawa, Harper said Monday that Canada won't send officials to the Paralympic Games in Sochi, but athletes will compete.

G7 partners also said their officials won't attend the Games.

Harper said he has also instructed bureaucrats to review all planned bilateral interaction with Russia — hinting more penalties are in the offing.

The prime minister also said he spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart Monday to reaffirm that Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected and that Ukrainians must be free to determine their future.

There are about 1.25 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent, most of whom live in Western Canada.

The foreign affairs department said 340 Canadians are registered in Ukraine.

The international community was caught flat-footed on the weekend when Russian troops began moving into Crimea after Russia's parliament approved Putin's request for military intervention after weeks of unrest and the toppling of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich.

International bodies have been scrambling in recent days trying to develop a suitable response to the invasion, but have stopped short of endorsing military action or blockades.

Sanctions — economic and otherwise — are on the table as is freezing Russian assets held outside the country.

The European Union said it would implement targeted measures by Thursday if Russian troops continue to occupy the mostly pro-Kremlin region — home to a strategic Russian naval base.

The propaganda wars Monday suggested Ukraine had until Tuesday to surrender Crimea or face a military storm — something Russian officials dismissed as absolutely false.

Western leaders and the provisional government in Ukraine fear wide-scale hostilities could break out if the conflict spreads to eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian leaders say the country is on high alert and is prepared to defend itself if Russian troops enter other parts of the country.

Mark.Dunn@sunmedia.ca

Twitter:MarkDunSun


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