WATCH: Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird wants to send a powerful message to Russia
TORONTO – Nine Russian soldiers taking part in military exercises in Canada have been expelled from the country after Prime Minister Stephen Harper cut all bilateral military activities with Russia.
The soldiers, six from Saint-Jean, Que., two from New Brunswick’s CFB Gagetown and one from Gatineau, Que., were told to leave the country within 24 hours and will be leaving Saturday, a government source told Global News.
Canada condemns Putin’s military invasion of Ukraine
Prime Minister Harper said Canada remains extremely concerned about the crisis in Ukraine and reiterates his call for Russia to “respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
“Today, our Government is taking additional measures to further increase pressure on President Putin and the Russian Federation to withdraw its troops to their bases by imposing a travel ban against a number of individuals responsible for threatening the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. This ban will prevent these individuals from travelling to Canada,” Harper said in a Friday statement.
In response to the Russian incursion into Ukraine’s Crimea region, Harper said Tuesday: “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.
“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.”
Canada won’t recognize Crimean referendum
On Thursday Harper said Canada won’t recognize Crimean’s forthcoming referendum on joining Russia.
Lawmakers in Crimea voted unanimously to split from Ukraine and join Russia, and will hold a referendum March 16 to allow voters on the disputed peninsula to weigh in on the decision.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said it’s impossible to organize a meaningful referendum in the 10-day time frame proposed.
He said Canada is deeply concerned about Russia’s military actions.
“This is a vestige of another century,” he said. “It’s a Soviet-style tactic that’s unacceptable for a G8 country and unacceptable in 2014.
“We’re going to condemn it in the strongest of terms and work with friends and like-minded allies to see it reversed.
“It’s going to be a challenging issue.”
–with files from The Canadian Press
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