Skip to main content

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa on Feb. 21.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Canada is sending hundreds more troops to Europe and slapping what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a “first round” of new economic sanctions on Russia for its decision to recognize two breakaway regions in Ukraine and deploy soldiers there.

“Russia’s flagrant disregard for the independence of a sovereign nation is a serious threat to security and stability in the region – and around the world,” Mr. Trudeau said. “We are taking these actions today in a stand against authoritarianism. The people of Ukraine, like all people, must be free to determine their own future.”

Canada’s announcement comes one day after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized Donetsk and Luhansk – two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine – as independent territories and announced he would send in Russian troops.

The new sanctions and further troop deployments echo similar actions by allies, including the United States and Britain.

Western allies impose sanctions against Russian interests for military incursion in Ukraine, but critics say they don’t go far enough

Russia’s parliament leaves door open for Putin to launch wider invasion of Ukraine

Putin grows impatient with American influence in strategically important Ukrainian fishing town Ochakiv

Mr. Trudeau said Canada will ban Canadians from “all financial dealings” with what he described as the “so-called independent states” of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Canada will also sanction all members of the lower house of the Russian parliament who voted in favour of recognizing the Ukrainian territories as independent. This amounts to more than 350 Russian politicians.

It will also bar Canadians from buying Russia’s sovereign debt, meaning government bonds or other efforts by Moscow to raise capital.

Finally, it will sanction two state-backed Russian banks – VEB and Promsvyazbank – and prevent any financial dealings with them, Mr. Trudeau said.

“These sanctions are a major step and target those responsible for violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the Canadian Prime Minister said. “They will remain in place until the territorial integrity of Ukraine is restored.”

Held by pro-Russian separatists

Claimed by separatists, held by Ukraine

Annexed by Russia in 2014

BELARUS

RUSSIA

POLAND

Kyiv

Luhansk

UKRAINE

Donetsk

MOLDOVA

ROMANIA

Crimea

0

200

Black Sea

KM

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE:

TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS

Held by pro-Russian separatists

Claimed by separatists, held by Ukraine

Annexed by Russia in 2014

BELARUS

RUSSIA

POLAND

Kyiv

Luhansk

UKRAINE

Donetsk

MOLDOVA

ROMANIA

Crimea

0

200

Black Sea

KM

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE:

TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS

Claimed by separatists,

held by Ukraine

Held by pro-Russian

separatists

Annexed by Russia in 2014

BELARUS

RUSSIA

POLAND

Kyiv

Luhansk

UKRAINE

Donetsk

MOLDOVA

ROMANIA

Sea of Azov

Crimea

0

200

Black Sea

KM

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; REUTERS

Mr. Trudeau called Russia’s move on Ukraine “a further invasion of a sovereign state,” and said “Russia’s brazen provocations are a threat to security and peace in the world.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly warned that Canada and allies will pile on more sanctions if Russia persists.

“Just as Russia has prepared for this day, so have we,” she said. “We are prepared to target even more of Russia’s financial sector and oligarchs and we are ready to make significant announcements related to Canadian exports to Russia.”

Ms. Joly said Canada and allies will focus on squeezing Russia’s wealth.

“We are at the most dangerous moment for world stability in a generation,” Ms. Joly said. “We know that Russia has been building its war chest but these reserves will not last forever.”

The Russian embassy in Canada in a statement denounced sanctions against more than 350 Russian politicians, calling it “something new for Canadian liberal democracy” and a rejection of the opinion of the Russian electorate. “To sanction the elected members of the Russian parliament who voted for recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics is ludicrous. This equals to sanctioning the opinion of their constituencies.”

The Russian embassy also predicted the sanctions would not influence matters in Ukraine.

Ms. Joly, for her part, announced she had directed her deputy minister Marta Morgan to summon Russia’s ambassador to Canada and “explain Russia’s continued aggression, violation of international law, and disregard for Ukrainian sovereignty.”

She also rejected Mr. Putin’s “revisionist understanding of Ukraine’s history and reality” after the Russian president’s lengthy speech Sunday that said Ukraine was not a real country.

Canada already has about 800 Canadian Armed Forces members in Europe as part of Operation Reassurance – this country’s contribution to a nearly five-year-old effort by NATO to deter Russian aggression.

This existing contribution includes about 540 troops in the Baltic state of Latvia, where Canada leads a multinational NATO battle group composed of 10 countries. It also includes the frigate HMCS Montreal that is currently part of a Standing NATO Maritime Group in Europe.

Tuesday’s additional deployment announcement includes sending 120 gunners as part of an artillery battery to Latvia, Defence Minister Anita Anand said. They will deploy in 30 days for at least six weeks.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is deploying hundreds more troops to eastern Europe and imposing new economic sanctions on Russia in response to President Vladimir Putin's decision to send forces into two regions of eastern Ukraine.

The Canadian Press

This additional deployment to Latvia will enlarge, at least temporarily, what is already Canada’s biggest single military commitment abroad. The Canadian-led battle group near Riga is one of four NATO battlegroups in the Baltic states and Poland.

A second frigate, HMCS Halifax, will be deployed in late March to join the NATO effort, Ms. Anand said.

And finally, a CP-140 Aurora long-range patrol aircraft will be deployed to the “Euro-Atlantic area under NATO command” from Iceland where it is currently operating, National Defence department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said.

Canada’s Operation Reassurance is part of a broader North Atlantic Treaty Organization effort begun about five years ago as a check on further Russian aggression after Moscow annexed Crimea and began efforts to destabilize Ukraine’s eastern flank.

Mr. Trudeau told reporters Tuesday Mr. Putin is wrong if he thinks he can carve off further parts of Ukraine without significant cost.

Canada’s embassy in Ukraine remains at work in the western city of Lviv, where it has relocated from Kyiv, Ms. Joly said. “The goal is to stay in Ukraine as long as possible,” she said.

Lawyer John Boscariol, head of McCarthy Tetrault’s international trade and investment law group, said Canada’s sanctioning of more than 350 Russian Parliamentarians may be unprecedented in this country’s history. He said the prospect of more sanctions will be a massive undertaking for Canada.

“This is the beginning of a sanctions program that will be one of the most significant in Canada’s history given the amount of trade and investment between Canada and Russia,” he said.

According to the Department of Global Affairs, Canada exported $666-million to Russia in 2019 and imported nearly $2-billion.

He said Ms. Joly’s warning about future sanctions sounds like she is talking about export controls.

Separately, a former Canadian security official said Canada’s electricity grid is a prime target for cyberattacks if Russia decides to retaliate against a new round of punitive Canadian sanctions.

David Masson, director of enterprise security at the Canadian operations of U.K.-based Darktrace, a cybersecurity firm. He worked at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service for four years ending in 2016.

For subscribers only: Get exclusive political news and analysis by signing up for the Politics Briefing.