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Russia's President Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, June 25, 2014. (RIA Novosti/REUTERS)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, June 25, 2014. (RIA Novosti/REUTERS)

Russian ban of food imports from Canada a sign of 'desperation,' Harper's office says Add to ...

Russian sanctions on agriculture imports from Canada and other countries are a sign of Vladimir Putin’s “increasing desperation,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office says.

The agricultural sanctions, detailed Thursday, are the latest step in escalating tensions between Russia and the West amid ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Canada had added its own new sanctions on Wednesday before Mr. Putin fired back at the West by choking off agriculture imports.

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In a statement Thursday, Mr. Harper’s office said impact on Canadian trade was considered when weighing sanctions against Russia, but that Ottawa will “not allow business interests alone to dictate our foreign policy.” The statement continued the government’s use of strong language against Mr. Putin, the Russian president.

“While these actions only demonstrate Putin’s increasing desperation, Canada will continue to monitor developments closely and ensure that information on any Russian economy measures which target Canada is relayed to Canadian industry as required,” the PMO statement Thursday said.

In a similarly worded statement, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz’s office said the “sanctions show short-sighted desperation from the Putin regime and negatively impact the citizens of Russia far more than Canadians.”

In 2012, Canada agri-food and seafood exports to Russia totaled $668-million, or about 1.3 per cent of total exports in those categories, federal figures show. The bulk of that figure is pork exports.

“Thanks to the continued efforts of our government and industry, Canadian pork producers have access to numerous other lucrative markets around the world,” the statement from Mr. Ritz’s office said.

The sanctions and travel bans announced Wednesday by Canada targeted 19 Russian and Ukrainian individuals and another 22 Russian and Ukrainian groups and economic entities. The sanctions were imposed in “close co-ordination” with the U.S. and Europe, Mr. Harper said in a statement Wednesday.

Russia’s year-long agricultural import ban, announced by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday, affects meat, fish, milk and milk products and fruit and vegetables from Canada, the U.S., the European Union, Australia and Norway.

Russia is also considering restrictions on the import of planes, navy vessels, cars and other industrial products, Mr. Medvedev warned, as well as a ban on Western airlines flying over Russia on flights to and from Asia, which would significantly swell costs and increase flight time.

With a report from The Associated Press

Follow on Twitter: @josh_wingrove

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