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Canada once again steps up sanctions against Russia over Ukraine crisis

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OTTAWA - Canada is following the United States in once again stepping up the pressure on Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.

Two Russian companies and nine individuals, including two billionaire friends of President Vladimir Putin, will face new sanctions, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Monday.

The latest round of sanctions comes in response to Russia's continued actions to destabilize the Ukrainian government, Harper said in a statement.

And he suggested that more economic sanctions could be on the way unless Putin follows through on an April 17 agreement that was designed to ease tensions in Ukraine.

"The illegal occupation of Ukraine continues and Russia's military aggression persists," Harper said. "That is why we are imposing sanctions against an additional nine individuals and two entities."

Among the nine individuals facing sanctions are Boris Rotenberg and his older brother Arkady, the billionaire co-owners of SMP Bank and SGM Group, a major supplier of construction services to Russia's gas giant Gazprom.

The Rotenbergs have close ties with Putin and were at one time his judo sparring partners.

Boris Rotenberg holds dual citizenship in both Finland and Russia.

It's not clear how the sanctions would impact the men or their business interests.

Others facing similar sanctions include Vladimir Volfovich Zhirinovsky, the founder and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia; and Oleg Evgenyevich Belaventsev, the Russian presidential envoy to the Crimean District and a member of the Russian Security Council.

As well, several lawmakers, bureaucrats and the director of the Russian Federation's federal protective service have been singled out.

Canada is also imposing economic sanctions against ExpoBank and RosEnergoBank.

Meanwhile, the government said Monday that six CF-18 fighter jets were scheduled to depart Tuesday from Bagotville, Que., to assist NATO operations in eastern Europe.

The planes will be stationed in Romania, said Defence Minister Rob Nicholson.

"These jets will support air policing and training missions," Nicholson told the Commons.

Earlier Monday, the United States imposed sanctions on seven Russian government officials and 17 companies linked to Putin. It also revoked licenses for some high-tech products used by Russia's military.

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