Trudeau announces sanctions on Putin, calls for Russia's removal from SWIFT banking system
Sanctions will also apply to Russia's foreign minister and Putin's chief of staff
Canada will impose sanctions directly on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle of advisers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday afternoon.
The sanctions will also extend to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Putin's chief of staff.
"These men bear the greatest responsibility for the death and destruction occurring in Ukraine," Trudeau said.
"The world is witnessing the horrors of President Putin's war of choice … It is an atrocity for Ukraine's over 40 million innocent citizens, and for the world."
Trudeau described the new measures as the third set of "severe, co-ordinated sanctions" implemented by Canada and its allies.
The United States, United Kingdom and European Union earlier on Friday announced sanctions against Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The EU is freezing financial accounts connected to Putin. The U.S. sanctions also impose a travel ban on Putin.
Trudeau acknowledged that Putin does not have "much if anything in terms of personal holdings in Canada," but said the measure is important because it signals strong co-operation from Canada and its allies.
"This is a significant step and it has its impact in the fact that we are all, as Western countries, united and aligned on this," he said.
Russian Embassy slams 'absurd' sanctions
In a statement Friday evening, the Russian Embassy in Canada criticized the sanctions as an "unprecedentedly unfriendly" and "absurd" step.
"It contradicts all principles of interstate relations and diplomatic ethics," the embassy said.
"The Cabinet is approaching the point of an irreparable severance of bilateral ties. Response will follow."
The statement went on to repeat Putin's claims about "the rise of neo-Nazism in Ukraine." Putin has cited the need to "denazify" Ukraine's leadership as one of his main reasons for invasion, accusing it of genocide against Russian-speakers in Eastern Ukraine. Kyiv and its Western allies dismiss the accusations as baseless propaganda.
❗Statement of the Embassy on Canadian Sanctions <a href="https://t.co/7FIbsAVcat">pic.twitter.com/7FIbsAVcat</a>—@RussianEmbassyC
Canada will also impose new sanctions on Belarus, which hosted joint exercises with the Russian military and served as the launching pad for the invasion across Ukraine's northern border. The new sanctions apply to 57 Belarusian individuals.
Oleksiy Honcharuk, who served as Ukraine's prime minister from 2019 to 2020, said the additional sanctions will not deter Putin.
"Economic sanctions, it's not enough ... It's too little, too late," Honcharuk told CBC's Power & Politics.
He called on NATO countries to send military equipment to Ukraine and work to close the airspace above the country.
Canada joins U.K. in calling for Russia's removal from SWIFT
Trudeau is now calling for Russia's removal from SWIFT, the Belgian-based banking system used for many international financial transactions.
"Excluding Russian banks from SWIFT will make it even more difficult for President Putin to finance his brutalities," Trudeau said.
Trudeau and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson are the NATO leaders pushing most vocally for Russia's removal from the banking system. The two leaders discussed the possibility of action on SWIFT during a call on Friday, Johnson's office reported.
The EU decided Friday that it would not recommend removing Russia from SWIFT. The U.S. also has said it is not yet calling for that move.
The system connects some 11,000 banks and financial institutions in more than 200 countries, according to SWIFT. The service provides banks with a secure messaging system to coordinate money transfers.
Some European officials have been reluctant to call for Russia's removal from SWIFT due to concerns that the move could hurt some European nations more than Russia itself.
"It is a sanction that may actually also cut harder for certain countries than it cuts Russia," said German Ambassador to Canada Sabine Sparwasser on CBC's The House. "We're discussing it, and I think it is on the table, but no decision has been taken yet."
Alexander Stubb, a former prime minister of Finland, told CBC's Power & Politics he is "absolutely sure" the EU eventually will support Russia's removal from SWIFT.
Stubb said Russia's removal from SWIFT represents the "nuclear option" of sanctions that can isolate Russia from the rest of the world.
With files from Reuters