Canada to send observers to Ukraine, impose sanctions on former regime
Andrea Janus, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, March 5, 2014 2:50PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 6:48PM EST
Canada will send representatives to be part of an international observer mission to Ukraine, the Harper government announced Wednesday, as well as impose economic sanctions on some members of the former Ukrainian prime minister’s regime.
When asked by Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair during question period about whether Canada will be sending observers to Ukraine, Prime Minister Stephen Harper replied: “The short answer is yes.”
“Canada will contribute observers to an important military observer mission in a co-ordinated effort to better monitor the Russian military intervention in Crimea,” Harper said. The two observers will be part of the mission under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), according to a follow up statement from the PMO.
Harper went on to say that Canada “will be imposing economic sanctions” on members of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych’s regime. The PMO statement said Canada will “freeze the assets of members of the Yanukovych regime” at the request of Ukraine’s prosecutor general.
Harper also announced that Canada will suspend its participation in the Canada-Russia Intergovernmental Economic Commission, which was established to promote economic relations between the two countries.
During question period, Mulcair also asked Harper if Canada will be providing financial assistance to Ukraine. Harper replied that he has told Ukraine’s interim prime minister that “Canada is prepared to act on assistance with our international partners.”
Harper said Canadian officials are discussing aid to Ukraine with representatives of the International Monetary Fund, which itself has observers on the ground.
“It is critical at this time that there be economic stability at this time,” Harper said.
The prime minister also announced that he discussed the situation in Ukraine Wednesday with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
“The two leaders agreed on the importance of respecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and that any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty is unacceptable,” a separate PMO statement read.
The two leaders also “condemned in the strongest terms President Putin’s military intervention in Ukraine, noting that a de-escalation of the situation is in the best interest of the entire international community.”
In his first statement, Harper said Russian President Vladimir Putin “must now immediately withdraw his forces to their bases and refrain from further provocative and dangerous actions.”
Russian troops moved into the Crimean peninsula last weekend after months of pro-democracy protests in Ukraine sent Yanukovych into hiding. The protests, which had largely been peaceful, had turned violent in the previous weeks and left nearly 100 people dead.
Russian troops have taken control of military bases and border crossings in Crimea, and the Russian Navy has blocked two Ukrainian warships. Putin has cited strategic interests, as well as a need to protect Russian-speakers in the region, as justification for the incursion.
On Wednesday, diplomats met in Paris to discuss the crisis, while NATO announced it is suspending most of its meetings with Russia and reviewing its relationship with Moscow. Also Wednesday, UN envoy Robert Serry was forced to leave Crimea after being threatened by more than a dozen armed men at a cafe.
MP calls Canada's support of Ukraine encouraging
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird led a Canadian delegation in Ukraine, which included the head of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and Conservative caucus members.
While no opposition MPs were asked to join the delegation, Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland, a Ukrainian-Canadian who speaks the language fluently, travelled to Kyiv to meet with members of the post-revolutionary government.
Speaking to CTV's Power Play on Wednesday from Kyiv, Freeland said Canada's sanctions and the government's decision to send observers to Ukraine are positive moves that are welcome by Ukrainians.
"I know that sometimes we feel that we're a smaller country and we're not in the EU, so our actions may not matter," Freeland said. "But a lot of people have said to me, everything from the moral support of the Ukrainian flag flying above Parliament, which was broadcast here a lot, to our early move on travel bans, these things matter. And I think it's very important that Canada keep its eye on the ball."
Freeland said she has met with presidential candidates, Ukraine's chief rabbi and the head of the Crimean Tatars.
She said many Ukrainians see Russia's military intervention in Crimea as an invasion.
"I am really struck by the quiet determination," she said. "Ukrainians are very hopeful that Russia stops now and Russia pulls back. But they're not counting on it, and they're very confident that no matter what they're able to resist."