Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says Russia has “no excuse” for its actions in Ukraine as the former Soviet state mobilizes for war with Russia.
Mr. Baird said the federal government summoned Russia’s ambassador to Canada to convey its concern over the rapidly escalating situation. He said Canadahasn’t ruled out targeted sanctions against Russian officials and would continue to speak with allies and G7 and NATO members about the matter.
“President Putin’s military intervention in Ukraine is a clear violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Mr. Baird told reporters at a press conference on Sunday. “They are also violations of Russia’s obligations under international law.”
Earlier on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned that Russia could be expelled from the G8 over its actions. Mr. Baird declined to comment on whether Canada would support such a move, but did not rule the possibility.
Speaking during a press conference at the annual convention of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, Mr. Baird said NATO members have spoken out “clearly and unequivocally” in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Canada has recalled its ambassador to Moscow for consultations and suspended all preparations for a planned meeting G8 meeting in Sochi.
“There’s no history of this ever happening,” Mr. Baird said of the decision to suspend G8 preparations. “But we’ll take this one step at a time.”
Mr. Baird is ruling out western military intervention to force Russia to pull its troops out of Ukraine.
“I don’t think there’s anyone talking about western military intervention, none of our friends or allies,” Mr. Baird said earlier Sunday in an interview with Global’s West Block.
“What we are doing is working together to say in no uncertain terms that this is completely unacceptable and to condemn (it) in the strongest language possible.”
On Saturday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada is withdrawing its ambassador from Russia and will boycott preparatory meetings of ministers and officials for the G8 summit, which is supposed to be held in June in Sochi, where the Winter Olympic games just ended.
“Next month there’s a G8 foreign ministers’ meeting and if (Mr. Putin) continues with this provocative action, there’s certainly no way I or Canada would want to have anything to do with Russian world leadership,” Baird said.
Whether the G8 leaders’ summit itself goes ahead will be up to Mr. Putin, he added, stressing that Russia must be made to realize that its actions “will have a major effect on Russia’s relationship, not just with Canada but the entire free and democratic world.”
Baird was returning Saturday from Kiev, where he led a Canadian government delegation to show support for Ukraine’s new pro-western government.
In his absence, he said his deputy minister called in Russia’s ambassador to Canada, Georgiy Mamedov, and reamed him out “in the strongest terms certainly in my time at Foreign Affairs.”
He did not rule out expelling the ambassador.
“We’ll obviously be revisiting this on an hour-by-hour basis,” he said, adding that Canada wants to act “in unison” with its allies.
On Saturday, Harper spoke with U.S. President Barack Obama and the two agreed to “co-ordinate closely” their response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Harper has also spoken to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
As well, Harper spoke Saturday with NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair.
Harper said Canada supports the United Nations sending international monitors to Ukraine and is involved in multilateral talks to put together a financial aid package for Ukraine, which is on the brink of defaulting on its sovereign debt.
Employment Minister Jason Kenney told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday that Canada has indicated “support in principle” for an International Monetary Fund aid package. He said “basic economic stability for Ukraine at this sensitive moment is critically important.”
Despite the sanctions, Canada does not intend to withdraw its athletes from the Paralympics, set for March 7-16 in Sochi.
“We don’t want the athletes to pay the price for this,” Mr. Baird said.
However, he said no government representative will attend the games “to somehow glorify Russia’s time in the spotlight.”
A spokesman for the Canadian Paralympic Committee says the organization continues to monitor the situation but has no plans to back out now. Martin Richard says the goal remains to place among the top three nations in the gold medal count.
With a report from The Canadian Press