Canada is expanding its list of Russians and Ukrainians targeted with sanctions, even as Ottawa says nothing is "severe enough" to punish Moscow and as Russia's ambassador flouts such measures as hardly a threat to his country's prosperity.
Speaking to reporters in Montreal, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said 17 more Russian and Ukrainian officials will be hit with travel and economic sanctions – yet another round of retaliative measures, this time a direct result of Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision Tuesday to sign a treaty annexing Ukraine's Crimea region.
"Russia has and continues to face a very clear choice: engage with the international community constructively and through diplomacy, or continue to face increased isolation which will only grow more painful to those closest to President Putin," Mr. Baird said, noting that the government won't hesitate to expand the list.
"I don't think anything is severe enough when a ruler in the Kremlin tries to redraw the borders of Europe in the post-Cold War era."
The latest Russian names on the sanctions roster, released by the Prime Minister's Office on Tuesday afternoon, include the deputy speakers of both parliamentary houses, the chairman of the security and defence committee, and the commanders of the western and southern military districts, as well as the commander of the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. The expanded Ukrainian list includes Crimean government leaders, the mayor of the Crimean city of Sevastopol and the former head of the Ukrainian navy.
Mr. Baird also responded to comments made earlier in the day by Russia's ambassador to Canada, Georgiy Mamedov, who said the West cannot isolate Russia when his country has close links to Asia, namely China. Mr. Baird noted that China abstained from a recent United Nations resolution on respecting Ukraine's territorial integrity, rather than voting alongside Russia – proof, he said, that Moscow's chief supporters these days are Syria and North Korea.
Mr. Baird said Russia "absolutely" faces the possibility of expulsion from the G8, though he declined to speculate on a timeline, saying, "I think that'll be a decision for the G7 leaders." The leaders are slated to discuss next steps regarding Ukraine on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit at The Hague next week.
"You'll recall at the last G8 meeting in northern Ireland, Prime Minister Harper … referred to the G8 as the 'G7 +1,' " Mr. Baird said, referring to Mr. Putin as the odd leader out. "And I think we see the wisdom of those observations today."
Mr. Mamedov said removing Russia from the G8 will only hurt Western countries, for example by limiting discussions on important global issues such as international terrorism.
"I don't understand people who say it is actually to hurt Russia," he said at a press conference, adding that the G20 is probably becoming more important than the G8, "so we can survive."
He also questioned whether the Prime Minister Stephen Harper's upcoming visit to Ukraine will be helpful in reducing tensions in the region – a trip Mr. Baird touted as a "major step forward, intended to emphasize that we are supportive of the new Ukrainian government in Kiev."
The ambassador also commented on the stabbing last week of a Russian embassy employee in Ottawa, which he has been assured was not related to the conflict in Crimea. He said the man who was injured is recovering at a hospital in Moscow and was not expected to return to Canada.
The ambassador said he was assured the stabbing was not related to the conflict in Crimea.