Canada lays new Russia sanctions, says Moscow meddling in Moldova election

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Canada on Thursday slapped new sanctions on Russia targeting its military and industrial sectors, and joined allies in accusing Moscow of seeking to influence elections in Moldova.

The actions come as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends the G7 Summit in Italy, where Russia’s invasion of Ukraine remains a key topic, and follow sweeping new sanctions from the U.S. that aim to cripple Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war machine.

The Canadian sanctions specifically target individuals and entities implicated in disinformation and propaganda operations, as well as entities involved in supplying technology to the Russian military and who have helped Russia evade existing sanctions on goods and oil revenue, the government said in a statement.

“Today’s newest sanctions reflect our long-standing efforts to disrupt President Putin’s ability to wage Russia’s illegal war, including by conducting gross disinformation campaigns,” Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said in the statement.

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“Our message to President Putin is clear: Withdraw your military and proxy forces from Ukraine.”

Click to play video: 'G7 leaders agree on US$50B loan for Ukraine using frozen Russian assets'
G7 leaders agree on US$50B loan for Ukraine using frozen Russian assets

The government said the sanctions affect a total of 11 individuals and 16 entities.

The alleged disinformation and propaganda operations involve “using looted Ukrainian communication equipment in the temporarily occupied territories” of Ukraine to spread false information, according to Global Affairs Canada, “as well as other Russian disinformation actors inside and outside of Russia.”

The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday announced new sanctions on more than 300 entities and individuals aimed at cutting off Russia’s access to products and services needed to sustain military production for its war in Ukraine, including dozens of Chinese suppliers.

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The move is aimed at restricting the Russian military’s ability to exploit certain U.S. technologies in addition to targeting entities in Asia, Europe and Africa.

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The Treasury also said it was imposing sanctions on key parts of Russia’s financial infrastructure, including the Moscow Exchange, and sanctioned individuals the U.S. government alleges are involved in the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.

Canada, U.S., U.K. accuse Moscow of Moldova election plot

Shortly before Ottawa announced the new sanctions, it joined the U.S. and Britain in accusing Russia of carrying out a plot to sway the outcome of the Moldovan presidential election in October and incite protests if a pro-Moscow candidate should lose.

A statement from the three countries issued by Global Affairs Canada on Thursday said Russia is using disinformation and online propaganda to exacerbate societal tensions and foment negative perceptions of the West and the incumbent team of Moldova’s pro-western President Maia Sandu.

“By revealing the Kremlin’s plot, we are making it clear to Moscow that we stand for free and fair elections and will not tolerate its attempts to meddle and undermine democratic processes,” the joint statement said.

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Moldova, a former Soviet republic of 2.5 million people, sits between Ukraine and Romania and has been fiercely critical of Putin and the invasion of Ukraine. It has previously accused Moscow of plotting the Moldovan government’s overthrow and expelled Russian diplomats.

Click to play video: 'Russia waging ‘hybrid war’ against Moldova: NATO deputy secretary general'
Russia waging ‘hybrid war’ against Moldova: NATO deputy secretary general

Evgenia Gutul, the pro-Russia governor of Moldova’s Gagauzia region, was among the individuals included in the U.S. sanctions announced Wednesday.

Gutul faces criminal allegations of channelling funds from Russia to finance the now-banned Shor Party set up by Ilan Shor, an exiled pro-Russia businessman convicted of fraud in Moldova. She denies the allegations as fabricated.

The three countries said Thursday that Russia’s support of Shor dates back several years, with employees of Russian state media outlet RT providing financial support.

During a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Chisinau last month, Sandu accused the Kremlin of using criminal groups in Gagauzia to bring in Russian money to finance de-stabilizing activities and attempts “to bribe the elections.”

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In the joint statement, the allies said they shared Sandu’s concerns that the Kremlin is using criminal groups to finance political activities.

Russia’s threat to Europe amid its ongoing invasion of Ukraine has been the focus of several international summits this year, including the G7, and has inspired European countries to fortify their defences.

Ukraine’s security and future has also been a top concern. Western nations, including Canada, have announced new supports and aid for Kyiv this week, ahead of a peace summit to be held in Switzerland this weekend that Russia was not invited to.

Earlier Thursday, the G7 leaders kicked off their summit by announcing agreement on a U.S. proposal to back a US$50-billion loan to Ukraine using frozen Russian assets as collateral.

Trudeau said Canada is prepared to contribute $5 billion toward the loan that will be based on future revenue from the frozen Russian assets.

Canada also announced it will start shipping decommissioned CRV7 rocket motors to Ukraine, beginning with an “initial tranche” of around 2,000 rocket motors.

— with files from Reuters

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