Watch above: Russia says it doesn’t want a war, but they don’t appear to be easing up on intervention in the Ukraine crisis. Tom Clark and Paul Johnson report.
MOSCOW – Prime Minister Stephen Harper has suspended planned military activities between Canadian and Russian forces, in response to the Russian incursion into Crimea.
“I have this morning directed that, effective immediately, all planned bilateral activities between the Canadian Armed Forces and the military of the Russian Federation be suspended,” Harper said Tuesday. “This includes exercises, such as NORAD’s Exercise Vigilant Eagle, and scheduled meetings.”
Harper said the Canadian government views the crisis “with the gravest concern.”
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He added Canada will review its relations with the Kremlin accordingly.
Canada has already recalled its ambassador from Russia and has been mulling expelling the Russian ambassador in Ottawa.
Vladimir Putin talked tough but cooled tensions in the Ukraine crisis in his first comments since its president fled, saying Russia has no intention “to fight the Ukrainian people” but reserved the right to use force.
WATCH: Ukraine’s Ambassador to Canada updates situation in Crimea and how Canada and other allies are having a positive impact
Although nerves remained on edge in Crimea, with Russian troops firing warning shots to ward off Ukrainian soldiers, global markets catapulted higher on tentative signals that the Kremlin was not seeking to escalate the conflict.
Putin declared that Western actions were driving Ukraine into anarchy and warned that any sanctions the West places on Russia for its actions there will backfire. Both the U.S. and the 28-nation European Union have raised the possibility of sanctions against Russia.
But the overall message appeared to be one of de-escalation: “It seems to me (Ukraine) is gradually stabilizing,” Putin said. “We have no enemies in Ukraine. Ukraine is a friendly state.”
The Ukrainian flag is flying on Parliament Hill as demonstrators gather nearby at Russia’s embassy to protest the military intervention in Ukraine.
The move comes the day after the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion condemning Russia’s dramatic incursion in the country.
The Russian leader’s first comments on Ukraine since its fugitive president fled to Russia came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kyiv to meet with Ukraine’s new government. Kerry brought moral support and a $1 billion aid package to a Ukraine fighting to fend off bankruptcy.
The U.S. announced a $1 billion aid package Tuesday in energy subsidies to Ukraine, which is scrambling to get international loans to fend off looming bankruptcy.
“We are going to do our best (to help you). We are going to try very hard,” Kerry said in Kyiv.
“We hope Russia will respect the election that you are going to have.”
Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s government says it will provide up to $100,000 in humanitarian aid to Ukraine. The province says the matching funding will come from Alberta Culture’s International Development Program as it stands with the federal government in opposing all efforts to undermine democracy and freedom in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the Canadian dollar lost early ground late morning Tuesday even as risk appetite generally improved amid an easing of tensions in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
The loonie moved down 0.21 of a cent to 90.01 cents US a day before the next interest rate announcement by the Bank of Canada.
The NATO alliance and Russia have agreed to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine at a special meeting on Wednesday. Russia took over the Crimean peninsula on Saturday, placing its troops around the region’s military bases and border posts. NATO alliance secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said Russia’s military intervention is in violation of the U.N. charter and threatens peace and security in Europe.
Troops loyal to Moscow firing warning shots to ward off protesting Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea on Tuesday. Two Ukrainian warships remained anchored in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, blocked from leaving by Russian ships.
READ MORE: Russia demands that 2 warships surrender
Putin’s gunmen now menacing the media in Crimea. We got shoved around today, an Al Jazeera crew says they were threatened at gunpoint.
— Paul Johnson (@PJohnsonGlobal) March 4, 2014
The new Ukrainian leadership in Kyiv, which Putin does not recognize, has accused Moscow of a military invasion in Crimea, which Putin denies.
“Those unknown people without insignia who have seized administrative buildings and airports … what we are seeing is a kind of velvet invasion,” Russian military analyst Alexander Golts told The Associated Press in Moscow.
Putin insisted that the Russian military deployment in Crimea has remained within the limits set by a bilateral agreement on a Russian military base there. He said Russia had no intention of annexing Crimea, but insisted its residents have the right to determine the region’s status in a referendum set for later this month.
Putin accused the West of using Yanukovych’s decision in November to ditch a pact with the EU in favour of closer ties with Russia to encourage the months of protests that drove him from power and put Ukraine’s future in turmoil.
Yet he acknowledged that Yanukovych has no political future and said Russia gave him shelter only to save his life. Ukraine’s new government wants to put the fugitive leader on trial for the deaths of over 80 people during protests last month in Kyiv.
The Ukrainian national football team is scheduled to face the United States in a friendly on Wednesday in Cyprus, a match moved from Kharkiv to Larnaca for security reasons.
Ukrainian team spokesman Alexander Glyvynskyy conveyed the players’ collective concern over developments at home on Monday, but on a positive note, stressed that the players – who come from all over the country – are united.
© 2014 The Canadian Press