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Canada to sanction Putin, Russia's foreign minister for Ukraine invasion

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday that Canada will follow the lead of its allies and levy sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the country’s attack on Ukraine.

The announcement comes after the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States all announced sanctions against the two Russian leaders.

“These men bear the greatest responsibility for the death and destruction occurring in Ukraine,” said the prime minster, during a press conference about the crisis.

The government will also sanction Putin’s chief of staff and additional financial penalties will be applied to Belarusian leaders for “abetting President Putin’s invasion of a free and sovereign nation.”

As part of the announcement, Trudeau said Canada supports removing Russia’s access to an international payment and messaging system known as SWIFT.

“We’ve made it clear that all options are on the table when it comes to imposing steep costs on Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked invasion. That includes taking steps to exclude Russia from making financial transactions around the world,” he said.

“Excluding Russian banks from SWIFT would make it even more difficult for President Putin to finance his brutalities.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated that his government was discussing the possibility of banning Russia from SWIFT, but noted the move would require U.S. support.

The U.S. has so far been reluctant to do so.

Russian troops bore down on Ukraine's capital Friday, with explosions and gunfire sounding in the city as the invasion of a democratic country fueled fears of a wider war in Europe and triggered worldwide efforts to make Moscow stop.

NATO decided to send parts of the alliance's response force to help protect its member nations in the east for the first time. NATO didn't say how many troops would be deployed but added it would involve land, sea and air power.

Friday’s announcement represents Canada’s third package of measures – financial or otherwise – targeting Russia.

Earlier this week, the government announced that it was banning Canadians from all financial dealings with Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as approving a deployment of up to 460 Canadian Armed Forces troops to Latvia as part of Operation REASSURANCE to “reinforce” Canada’s commitment to NATO.

A group of 3,400 Canadian Armed Forces troops are on standby to assist with the NATO Response Force should they be required.

On Thursday, sanctions were announced against 58 individuals and entities, including members of the Russian elite and their family members, as well as paramilitary organization the Wagner Group, Russian banks, and members of the Russian Security Council.

Canada also halted new export permits for Russia and cancelled existing permits.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky is vowing to stay in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, even though he said the Russian army is targeting him and his family.

Trudeau commended Zelensky’s bravery and leadership on Friday.

“I am inspired by his resolve and his devotion to his country. He is the embodiment of the courage of Ukrainian people and just like him, Ukrainian people are showing incredible strength and resilience,” he said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said the latest sanctioning approach, targeting Putin himself, follows the government’s strategy of penalizing top decision-makers.

“We want to make sure that we’re suffocating the Russian regime, that’s our goal. We know that this has an impact in terms of their own decision-making. But we know also, that we need to work all together, in a united West, to make that happen,” she said.

While sanctioning a world leader is an unprecedented move, some experts say it’s mostly symbolic.

Former defence and foreign affairs minister Peter MacKay told CTV News Channel’s Power Play the penalties will sting personally, but won’t stop Putin in his tracks.

“I don’t think this is going to deter the military forward movement of the Russian army,” he said. “The question at some point has to be, ‘Do we fight inside Ukraine or do we wait until an actual attack occurs in a NATO country?’”

Trudeau said that while Putin “does not have much, if anything” in terms of personal holdings in Canada, it was important to move in lockstep with allies.

“It’s also going to be extremely important that we show a level of unity, a level of collaboration and firmness around the world and prevent any loopholes from him trying to move money to places where he doesn’t currently have money,” the prime minister said.

With files from The Associated Press.

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