Alexander: Russia risks sanctions if it interferes in Ukraine
Published Sunday, February 23, 2014 4:23PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, February 23, 2014 8:27PM EST
Canada and the United States issued strong warnings to Russia on Sunday, saying any attempt to reinsert itself into Ukraine’s dramatic political situation would face immediate consequences.
Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander says Ottawa has the "potential to enact sanctions against anyone who is responsible" for further violence in Ukraine.
Alexander spoke to CTV Question Period's Robert Fife, the same day that U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice said it would be a "grave mistake" for Russia to step in militarily in Ukraine.
"It's not in the interest of Ukraine or of Russia or of Europe or the United States to see the country split," Rice said Sunday on NBC's “Meet the Press.”
The Ukrainian capital of Kyiv has been rocked by violent protests since November after its president, Viktor Yanukovych, reversed a decision to sign a long-awaited trade deal with the European Union in favour of stronger ties with Russia.
The death toll in the three-month conflict sits at 82, according to data released Saturday by the country's Health Ministry.
In a development welcomed by Canada and other western nations, an agreement was reached Friday between Yanukovych and Ukraine's opposition. Parliament is now running the country and speaker Oleksandr V. Turchynov has been given the authority to carry out the duties of president of Ukraine.
"(It) sets the table, perhaps, potentially, for the return to democracy," Alexander told CTV's Question Period in an interview that aired Sunday.
He added, however that "it's still early days" in Ukraine’s fragile recovery.
Yanukovych’s exact whereabouts are unclear, though he has vowed to remain in power and fulfill his presidential duties.
Turchinov on Sunday signalled a desire to shift away from Russian influence, saying the country’s top priorities include “returning to the path of European integration,” according to news agencies.
It’s unclear what steps Russia will now take, but the country’s foreign ministry announced on Sunday that it had recalled its ambassador to the Ukraine for “consultations” due to developments in the country.
Alexander told Question Period Sunday that the re-introduction of violence or a military intervention in Ukraine would be a “very dangerous development.”
"If someone from outside, including Russia, including Vladimir Putin, tries to introduce violence back into the equation, that … is going to be a very dangerous development," he said. "We now have the potential to enact sanctions against anyone who is responsible for this violence."
Alexander pointed to the UN charter, saying a "whole range of political options" are available when the independence of a country is violated by a neighbouring state.
With files from The Canadian Press and the Associated Press