OTTAWA, March 05, /ITAR-TASS/. Canada has suspended its military cooperation with Russia over the recent events in Ukraine, which has been in a political turmoil since its legitimate leader was ousted last month, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.
“I have this morning directed that, effective immediately, all planned bilateral activities between the Canadian Armed Forces and the military of the Russian Federation be suspended,” Harper said Tuesday.
“This includes exercises, such as NORAD’s Exercise Vigilant Eagle, and scheduled meetings,” he said.
Canada is home to about 1.4 million Ukrainians, who account for about 4 percent of its population.
The Canadian prime minister also said Tuesday he was alarmed by the situation in Ukraine and added that his country would continue reviewing its relations with the Russian government.
Ukraine’s legitimate president, Viktor Yanukovich, was ousted in a violent uprising in February. The Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, took over and appointed an interim head of state and approved a new government, which Russia does not recognize. Yanukovich told journalists in south Russia last week he remained Ukraine’s legitimate leader.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a news conference in his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo on Tuesday that focused on Ukraine. He called the recent developments in the country “an anti-constitutional coup” and “an armed seizure of power.” He also said he believed Yanukovich remained the only legitimate president, and said Ukraine's parliament was “partially” legitimate.
Putin also dismissed claims recently voiced by some media that Russian armed forces had taken part in any operations in the autonomous Ukrainian republic of Crimea, where Russians constitute the majority.
“These were local self-defense forces,” Putin said.
On March 1, Sergei Aksyonov, the chairman of Crimea’s Council of Ministers, addressed Russian President Putin with a request “to provide assistance in ensuring peace and calm on the territory of the autonomous republic of Crimea.”
Aksyonov said he made the address because he realized his “responsibility for the life and security of the citizens.” The Russian presidential administration said March 1 that Moscow would not leave the request unattended.
Russia leases from Ukraine a naval base in Crimea’s port city of Sevastopol and has its Black Sea Fleet deployed there. During Yanukovich’s presidency, which started in 2010, Moscow and Kiev agreed to extend Russia’s military presence in Crimea until 2042 - a deal the then Ukrainian opposition sharply criticized.
The upper house of Russia’s parliament, the Federation Council, on March 1 authorized the use Russia’s armed forces in Ukraine “until the situation normalizes” in the country. During Tuesday’s press conference, Putin said that “so far, there is no need” to use the Russian armed forces in Ukraine.
Earlier, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said Yanukovich had written a letter to Putin dated March 1 asking him to use Russia’s armed forces in Ukraine “to reinstate legality, peace, law and order, stability and protect the Ukrainian population.”
Asked about the West’s tough reaction to Russia’s position on Ukraine, Putin told journalists on Tuesday that Russia’s actions were based on the norms of international law. When asked about the threat of sanctions from Western countries, Putin said that “those who intend to apply them need to consider their consequences.”
“I believe that in the modern world, where everything is interconnected and interdependent, it is possible to cause damage to another country, but this will be mutual damage and one should bear this in mind,” the Russian president told reporters in his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo in line with a translation posted on the Kremlin website.
“We think our actions have been absolutely reasonable, while any threat against Russia is counterproductive and harmful,” he said.
Moscow continues its preparations for the G8 summit due in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi in June despite a move by Western partners to suspend their preparatory work for the event, Putin also said.
“We will be ready to host the summit with our colleagues. If they do not want to come - so be it,” he said.