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Putin bites back at Canada's fresh sanctions, travel bans in Russia, Ukraine

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OTTAWA - Canada on Wednesday slapped fresh sanctions and travel bans on several top Russian and Ukrainian politicians and groups with ties to President Vladimir Putin's government, as Moscow responded with tit-for-tat sanctions of its own.

Canada's latest round of sanctions, imposed in co-ordination with the United States and the European Union, came amid reports Russia is massing thousands of troops along the Ukrainian border.

But Putin quickly retaliated, ordering state authorities to come up with a list of agricultural products from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia. Those imports will be banned or restricted for up to a year.

Russia's sanctions will mostly affect Canada's pork industry. Canada's agricultural exports to Russia amounted to $563 million in 2012, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and most of them were frozen pork.

Canada won't be the only country blocked from the Russian market. On Wednesday, a Russian state news agency reported the country will ban all imports of agricultural products from the United States.

Canada's measures, aimed at some 19 people and 22 groups and banks, follow previous sanctions and travel bans.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Russia's occupation of the Crimean Peninsula and provocative military activity in eastern Ukraine is a "grave concern" to Canada and the world.

Fighting is still raging in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian separatists. Western leaders have accused Russia of building up forces along the border — a claim Russia denies.

Canada is prepared to take further actions if Putin's government continues its military aggression, Harper said in a statement.

"President Putin has not provided any indication that he is prepared to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity or use his control over Russian-backed agents to end the violence in Ukraine," he said.

"On the contrary, reports indicate that, despite the criminal downing of MH17, Russia continues to provide logistical support and sophisticated weapons to its agents in eastern Ukraine."

Last month, all 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, were killed when the aircraft was shot down over contested territory in eastern Ukraine.

— With files from The Associated Press

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