OTTAWA/RIGA - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday announced a first round of economic sanctions on Russia a day after Moscow recognized the Ukraine separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent.
The United States, the European Union, Germany and Britain also announced ways they will punish Russia financially as they fear a further incursion is to come, a move Moscow has consistently denied for months.
The Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk broke away from Ukrainian government control in 2014 and proclaimed themselves independent "people's republics" after a pro-Moscow Ukrainian president was ousted in Kyiv.
Trudeau said his government will ban Canadians from all financial dealings with the so-called "independent states" of Luhansk and Donetsk. Canada will also ban Canadians from engaging in purchases of Russian sovereign debt, he added.
The Canadian prime minister said his government will sanction members of the Russian parliament who voted for the decision to recognize Donetsk and Luhansk as independent.
Canada will apply additional sanctions on two state-backed Russian banks and prevent any financial dealings with them, Trudeau said.
Trudeau also said he was authorizing additional troops to the region.
"So today, I am also authorizing the deployment of up to 460 members of the Canadian Armed Forces to Operation Reassurance. This involves more troops to Latvia, as well as the deployment of an additional frigate and maritime patrol aircraft," he said.
Canada is sending an additional 460 troops to reinforce the NATO military alliance in eastern Europe, Trudeau said. That includes a 100-soldier artillery unit to Latvia, which will join 540 other Armed Forces members leading a NATO battlegroup in the Baltic state.
A Canadian frigate, the HMCS Halifax, and a CP-140 Aurora patrol plane are also being deployed to eastern Europe, with all the promised forces expected in theatre by the end of March.
The prime minister said the measures are intended to “reinforce our commitment to NATO and promote peace and security in the region.”
While the additional Canadian forces will no doubt be welcome by Latvia and NATO, which had been hoping for reinforcements for the past few weeks, Trudeau sidestepped a question about why the government did not announce them sooner.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian troops into eastern Ukraine, saying they were there to "keep the peace." Trudeau described the step as "a clear incursion of Ukraine’s sovereignty."
"Make no mistake: this is a further invasion of a sovereign state and it is absolutely unacceptable," he said, adding it was "not too late" for Russia to seek a diplomatic resolution.
Meanwhile, Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins, commenting on the Canadian decision to Latvian Television this morning, said that Latvia already is in a strong position.
"Let's remember that our own armed forces and home guards are very capable, professional, well-equipped, with good armaments that are still improving. Then we have NATO soldiers from ten different countries with us on a daily basis. Now the Americans are coming to the exercises and they announced that they too will be strengthening their presence here, as well as Canada, which is leading the NATO battalion here in Latvia," said Karins.
According to him, Latvia's position is becoming increasingly secure. "Where is the significance? The significance is that America, Canada, Britain, Germany and everyone else - Spain, Italy - say that the Baltic is also their territory," the head of government commented, adding that these soldiers have been given the mandate to participate in armed conflict if necessary.