Canada is slapping sanctions on a Russian bank owned by associates of President Vladimir Putin as Ottawa moves in tandem with the U.S. to ratchet up pressure on Moscow over its seizure of Crimea.
Stephen Harper announced further sanctions just before his plane touched down in Europe for a week-long trip where he’ll focus on the Crimean crisis rocking the continent.
This is the first time Ottawa has targeted a company and it means Canadian citizens and companies are forbidden from doing business with Bank Rossiya, which is based in St. Petersburg.
To date, the penalties Canada meted out over Crimea have only targeted individuals: travel bans and economic sanctions against key Russian and Ukrainian figures responsible for destabilizing Ukraine.
Mr. Harper also announced a fresh round of sanctions targeting Mr. Putin’s closest long-time political and business allies.
In all, asset freezes and travel bans are being levied on 14 individuals in Mr. Putin’s inner circle.
Friday’s measures mirror actions taken by the Obama administration on Thursday.
“Together with our international allies, our government is taking a strong stance in our support for Ukraine,” Mr. Harper said.
He dismissed the referendum last week where Crimea, under Russian control, voted to join Russia.
“The so-called referendum that was held had no legitimacy.”
Mr. Harper is heading into next week’s Group of Seven meeting seeking to persuade his G7 counterparts to speak with the same degree of conviction on Russia, amid concern in Ottawa that not all members are publicly opposing Moscow with the same intensity.
The Canadian government expects the future of Moscow’s membership in the Group of Eight will be discussed at the meeting in The Hague. “You can expect the Prime Minister will articulate the view that we have to be steadfast in being strong in how we respond as a group of countries and have to stand our ground,” a senior Canadian government official told The Globe and Mail earlier this week.
The Prime Minister will be the first Group of Seven leader to visit Ukraine since the crisis there began.
Mr. Harper will later visit German Chancellor Angela Merkel who has emerged as an intermediary between the West and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Conservative Prime Minister will travel to Kiev Saturday and visit with Ukraine’s interim government. He is also expected to visit Independence Square – the heart of the uprising that overthrew Ukraine’s pro-Russia government. In his visit to Russia’s doorstep, Mr. Harper will embrace the new Ukrainian government, which Moscow dismisses as illegitimate, and will stand with Ukraine in the struggle for Crimea.