Ukraine’s president asks Canada for more anti-Russian sanctions and ‘restrictive’ measures
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/03/2022 (460 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA—Hours after the United Nations sided with Ukraine and demanded Russia withdraw from its territory, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the vote and appealed to Canada for more sanctions and “restrictive measures” to halt the bombardment of his country.
Zelenskyy, who is hunkered in Kyiv as Russian troops advance on the capital, took to Twitter to praise the UN’s backing and then to say he had talked to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and “thanked him for the leadership in imposing anti-Russian sanctions.”
He said he also “stressed the need to expand restrictive measures. The bombing of civilians in Ukraine must be stopped immediately,” said Zelenskyy.
Zelenskyy has pleaded in vain with European leaders to create a no-fly zone over his country — a move NATO countries including Canada have rejected as one that would escalate to an all-out war with nuclear-armed Russia.
But the embattled Ukrainian leader welcomed the powerful show of support from the UN General Assembly which voted 141-5 to condemn Russia’s invasion and demanded Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”
Zelenskyy called it “unprecedented” and “a strong demand to Russia to immediately stop the treacherous attack.” He said he was grateful to “everyone and every state that voted in favour. You have chosen the right side of history.”
The Ukrainian president tweeted about his evening phone call with Trudeau — which took place around 10:30 p.m. Kyiv time.
Later a senior Canadian government official said Zelenskyy pressed for more sanctions and more rapid implementation of those already announced, including the ban on major Russian banks dealing with the SWIFT international transaction system.
The SWIFT system is based in Brussels, and some European countries are still reluctant to include certain Russian banks that process their payments for Russian energy supplies.
To date, Canada has levied punitive sanctions alongside other G7 and NATO allies against Russian President Vladimir Putin, several of his top political lieutenants, including his foreign, finance, defence and justice ministers, Russian lawmakers in the Russian Duma or parliament, along with dozens of Russian oligarchs and their family members who are close to Putin’s inner circle, some of whom hold his personal wealth.
Canada has also sent $19 million in lethal arms including anti-tank weapons, and about $37 million in non-lethal gear, night vision gear, helmets, and body armour. The federal government has also provided more than $150 million in humanitarian assistance since the invasion began, and has fast-tracked study and work permits of Ukrainian nationals already in the pipeline or those who are here and looking to extend their stay.
Conservatives and New Democrats in Canada are pressing Trudeau for more sanctions directly on other Russian oligarchs who hold assets in Canada.
Conservative MP James Bezan used Commons parliamentary privilege, as British MPs have done, to name two individuals without fear of being sued, saying “Canada has yet to sanction some of his closest friends and advisers.”
“Russian oligarch and politician Konstantin Babkin, director of Buhler Industries in Manitoba, said in 2014 that Russia should not stop at Crimea, and, last month, supported Russia’s current actions. Putin insider Roman Abramovich, owner of Evraz, which has operations in Western Canada, is supplying steel to build Russian tanks,” Bezan said. “When will the prime minister finally sanction Russian oligarchs for supporting Putin’s war machine?”
Trudeau replied that Canada is moving in “alignment” with Western allies, adding, “We continue to look for more people to sanction. We continue to look for next steps. We will make more steps, but we will do it in a co-ordinated fashion with all allies together, because that is what makes the biggest impact.”
Canada’s sanctions included the unprecedented move to oust several major Russian banks and financial institutions from the SWIFT international transactions system which has jammed many banks — and Russians — from conducting business internationally, as well as a ban on the ability of the Russian Central Bank to access and use its foreign-denominated reserves to shore up its sagging currency, the ruble.
The Conservatives demand Ottawa evict Russia’s ambassador Oleg Stepanov and other embassy personnel. All three opposition parties want to allow Ukrainians fleeing the war to have visa-free access to Canada, if they can make it this far.
Trudeau told the Commons Wednesday his government continues to look at “all different ways that we can make positive impacts in the lives of Ukrainians, and in ending this.”
The federal government sent conflicting signals Wednesday about whether it would compensate Canadian companies or industries hurt by sanctions imposed on Russians or Russian companies.
Earlier in the day, Trudeau said sanctions “obviously have a cost at home. That’s how international trade works,” echoing a warning a day earlier by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Freeland had said Canadians should be prepared for that impact as the cost of fighting for democracy and a global rules-based order.
But Trudeau suggested in French that because punitive sanctions are necessary to persuade Putin to reverse his decision to invade Ukraine, the government could try to offset the pain that might be felt here in Canada.
“Yes, there will be industries and people who are going to be affected. We are going to see what we can do to compensate, but we also know that we have friends, partners, allies in Europe who are going to suffer a lot more, and our concern is to be there for each other,” Trudeau said on his way into a national caucus meeting.
Requests for clarification to Trudeau’s and Freeland’s offices were not immediately answered, and an afternoon news conference was abruptly cancelled, rescheduled for Thursday.
However, Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne downplayed the need for compensation and the extent of Canada’s trade with Russia, saying it represents less than one per cent of Canadian imports and exports.
“Of course, we expect a certain impact on the price of gas” at the pump, Champagne said, because it is tied to global prices “which can fluctuate.”
There will also probably be impacts on wheat and food commodity prices, he said, adding that he has already flagged to the Competition Bureau that price changes in Canada should be based on global market changes.
Overall, Champagne said, the impact for Canada “will probably be very moderate.”
With files from Stephanie Levitz
Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamacc