Canada announced new economic and travel sanctions against Russian banks and high-ranking officials Wednesday, just ahead of Russia issuing its own ban on Canadian agricultural products.
In retaliation against Western sanctions, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday signed a decree limiting the import of agricultural, raw and food products from countries that imposed sanctions against Russia. The decree lasts for one year, a spokeswoman for the Russian Embassy told CBC News.
Russia's sanctions on Canadian agricultural products are expected to hit the pork industry, although a spokesman from the Canadian Pork Council said the industry has "not received any official notices that would indicate a disruption in trade at this point."
Canada's new round of sanctions add 19 Russians and Ukrainians to the list of those banned from travel to Canada, and an additional 22 Russian and Ukrainian groups and economic entities.
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"The Putin regime's continued illegal occupation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and its provocative military activity in eastern Ukraine remains a grave concern to Canada and the international community," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a written statement announcing the sanctions.
"Export restrictions announced by the European Union with respect to military and military dual-use goods destined to Russia are already in place in Canada. We are also committed to imposing the necessary regulations to enact export restrictions on technologies used in Russia's oil exploration and extraction sector. Those will be implemented in parallel with our allies."
Russia retaliates with its own ban
There is also a plan to ban all U.S. agricultural products and all European produce imports, according to RIA, a Russian news agency.
In 2012, Canadian agricultural exports to Russia were worth $563 million, with pork and pork products making up most of the top five exported agricultural products from Canada to Russia. Numbers from 2011 indicate Russia was Canada's 13th-largest agri-food export market that year, although the pork industry says Russia is Canada's third-biggest market for its products.
In 2013, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz visited Russia to try to improve exports to the country and announced Canadian livestock companies had signed deals worth up to $11 million. The visit came a month after Russia imposed new restrictions on meat imports.
A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said the government doesn't know yet whether any specific Canadian products will be hit by the sanctions.
"We'll continue to monitor developments closely and ensure that information on any Russian economic measures which target Canada is relayed to Canadian industry as required. The steps Canada has taken have not been made without careful consideration of their potential impact on Canadian business interests abroad and at home," Adam Hodge wrote in an email to CBC News.
"Like our allies, we will put our national interests first, but we will not allow business interests alone to dictate our foreign policy."
Banks, airline sanctioned
Canada's new sanctions apply to a number of security and defence officials and military units and militia, as well as several leaders and high-ranking members of pro-Russian breakaway groups in Ukraine.
The Russian entities hit by the sanctions are:
- Bank of Moscow.
- Dobrolet Airlines.
- Russian Agricultural Bank.
- Russian National Commercial Bank.
- United Shipbuilding Corporation.
- VTB Bank OAO.
VTB, Bank of Moscow and the Russian Agricultural Bank were hit by sanctions from the United States last Wednesday to punish Russia for its actions in Ukraine.
The European Union last week froze the assets of the Russian National Commercial Bank.
Dobrolyot, a low-cost Russian air carrier, said Sunday it was suspending all flights after the European Union announced punitive measures against it last week.
VTB Bank OAO is Russia's second-largest bank by assets.
Ottawa has so far left off its sanctions list three Russian businessmen who were included on the U.S. list. All three have business interests in Canada.
New Democratic Party foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said the government's action is weak without including sanctions on the three business leaders, including the head of an oil company and a rail company.
"What’s the point of Canadian sanctions if you leave out the people and entities that can be most impacted by them?" Dewar said in a statement released by the NDP.
In an interview with CBC News Network, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said economic pressure owing to sanctions builds over time.
"I believe there's pressure now within Russia," he said. "That being said, we've indicated that this is just one more step in our condemnation of Vladimir Putin's illegal operations."
"What we're saying is we want these to be effective, and what we have been very clear is we're not going to go away, we're not going to stop applying this pressure until this illegal activity stops."
Sanctions' effect won't last
Piotr Dutkiewicz, director of the Institute of European and Russian Studies at Carleton University, said the effectiveness of the sanctions will taper as Russia seeks out products from countries like Brazil and China, and makes its own, to replace the ones it can't get from the West.
For now, he said, the sanctions are slowing down Russian business.
"In the short and probably the medium term, they are becoming quite harmful to Russian economy. However... in the long term, they may not play as big role as [the] West is considering."
Dutkiewicz said Western countries need to focus more on bringing Russia and Ukraine together to end the fighting.
"Our efforts in this area are meaningless so far," he said, noting the sanctions will increase the Russians' determination and could hinder negotiations.
"I don't see on the part of [the] EU, U.S. and Canada as well the master plan of ending the conflict."