Russia faces severe sanctions if it advances further into Ukraine: Joly

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Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly says Canada will join allies in imposing severe sanctions on Russian officials if the country takes further military action to compromise Ukrainian sovereignty.

Russia has positioned about 100,000 troops across Ukraine’s borders along with tanks and other heavy artillery, stoking fears across Europe of an invasion, but Russia has denied it intends to do that.

Joly said Russia is already in Ukraine and that Canada and its European and NATO allies will not stand for further provocations – a reference to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its fomenting of Russian separatist forces in Ukraine’s eastern region.

On Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden said he expects Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine but that he will pay a “dear price” for that.

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Joly was speaking in Brussels Thursday with her European Union counterpart Josep Borrell, where she is wrapping her three-country tour that has included stops in Ukraine and France. She will also meet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg later on Thursday.

Russia accuses West of plotting 'provocations' in Ukraine

Meanwhile, Russia accused the West on Thursday of plotting “provocations” in Ukraine even as it blames Moscow of planning aggressive military action in the neighboring country.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova alleged that Ukrainian and Western claims of an imminent Russian attack on Ukraine were a “cover for staging large-scale provocations of their own, including those of military character.”

“They may have extremely tragic consequences for the regional and global security,” Zakharova said.

She pointed to the delivery of weapons to Ukraine by British military transport planes in recent days, claiming that Ukraine perceives Western military assistance as a “carte blanche for a military operation in Donbas.”

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 'Canada, allies unite in support of Ukraine to put pressure on Russia' 2:04 Canada, allies unite in support of Ukraine to put pressure on Russia

Canada, allies unite in support of Ukraine to put pressure on Russia

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the U.S. threat of a possible Russian cut-off from the global banking system could encourage hawkish forces in Ukraine to use force to reclaim control of the rebel east.

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“It may implant false hopes in the hotheads of some representatives of the Ukrainian leadership who may decide to quietly restart a civil war in their country,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters.

Donbas, located in eastern Ukraine, is under control of Russia-backed separatists who have fought Ukrainian forces for nearly eight years, a conflict that has killed more than 14,000 people.

Ukraine said earlier this week that it has taken the delivery of anti-tank missiles from the U.K. It has rejected Moscow’s claims that it plans an offensive to reclaim control of separatist-held areas in the country’s eastern industrial heartland.

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Ukraine’s government, the U.S. and its NATO allies have expressed intensifying concerns in recent weeks over a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine.

Moscow has repeatedly denied having plans to launch an offensive. But it has sought a set of security guarantees from the West that would exclude NATO’s expansion to Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations and the deployment of alliance weapons there.

Washington and its allies firmly rejected Moscow’s demands in security talks last week, but kept the door open to possible further talks on arms control and confidence-building measures to reduce the potential for hostilities.

Amid the tensions, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Ukraine Wednesday to reassure it of Western support. He traveled to Berlin on Thursday to meet with his British, French and German counterparts to discuss Ukraine and other security matters.

 'Trudeau says Canada will help Ukraine, short on details' 2:01 Trudeau says Canada will help Ukraine, short on details

Trudeau says Canada will help Ukraine, short on details

The White House said Friday that U.S. intelligence officials had concluded that Russia had already deployed operatives to rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine to carry out acts of sabotage there and blame them on Ukraine in a “false-flag operation” to create a pretext for possible invasion, the claim Russia has rejected as “total disinformation.”

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In a move that further beefs up forces near Ukraine, Russia has sent an unspecified number of troops from the country’s far east to its ally Belarus, which shares a border with Ukraine, for major war games that run through Feb. 20.

Ukrainian officials have said that Moscow could use Belarusian territory to launch a potential multi-pronged invasion.

— with files from Vladimir Isachenkov of The Associated Press

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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