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WTF Wednesday: Russia approves troop deployment to Crimea; Canadians protest

Simon Treanor

This week, hundreds of protesters in Toronto and Ottawa gathered to call for a peaceful solution in Ukraine, where tensions are only escalating—especially thanks to Russia’s presence in Crimea. In both cities, crowds of people wearing blue and yellow shouted, “Putin hands off Ukraine!” At night, Toronto Ukranians gathered outside the consulate, holding candles and signing songs for peace. As one woman told CBC: “All we can do is pray here.”

Canadian politicians have also taken a stand—albeit with significantly more loaded language. Over the past few days, Stephen Harper and foreign affairs minister John Baird have been in discussion with the Ukrainian ambassador Vadym Prystaiko. And, in public statements, both Harper and Baird have compared Russia’s actions to that of Nazi Germany on the eve of WWII.

While on CBC’s Power and Politics, when asked about Russia’s right to protect so-called “Russian rights” in Crimea because of it majority Russian-speaking population, Baird answered: “The Sudetenland had a majority of Germans. That gave Germany no right to do this in the late 1930s.”

On March 4, Harper also told the House of Commons: “What we’ve seen is the decision of a major power to effectively invade and occupy a neighbouring country based on some kind of extra-territorial claim of jurisdiction over ethnic minorities. We haven’t seen this kind of behaviour since the Second World War.”

This statement followed the decision to raise the Ukrainian flag over Parliament Hill in a sign of support for the new Ukrainian government, and a universal condemnation of Russia’s actions in the House of Commons on Monday.

Indeed, politicians from all sides of the Canadian political spectrum are condemning Russia’s actions and showing support to the new government. Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland arrived yesterday in Kiev, to join the Canadian  Conservative-led delegation, which arrived last week to welcome and show support to Ukraine’s fledgling government. She spoke to CBC news about the importance of solidarity:

It’s really important for me right now as a Canadian MP outside Canada in a country which is in grave jeopardy to present a united front with the government … So there’s no dissent between me and the Liberal Party and the prime minister and the foreign minister on Ukraine right now.

While not physically represented in Kiev, the NDP party has been expressing concern for Ukrainian citizens since December 10th 2013, near the start of the peaceful protests. Paul Newer, the NDP foreign affairs critic, also wrote to Baird asking for a government-wide delegation to Ukraine. While the “government-wide” aspect of the request was ignored, Dewer was reported to tweet “Glad for Canadian delegation to #Ukraine as NDP requested. Too bad only MPs from one party. We all stand with Ukrainian people.”

Harper, along with six other G-8 countries, has also agreed to boycott all preparatory meetings of the G-8 meeting scheduled in Sochi later this year, recalled the Canadian ambassador from Russia, and has suspended all joint military activities with Russia with threats of further severing of ties if the situation is not resolved.

Harper said in a statement March 4 that: “We continue to view the situation in Ukraine with the gravest concern and will continue to review our relations with President Putin’s government accordingly.”

Ukrainian Crimean Tatars, a muslin minority in the Crimea region that are strongly opposed to Russian rule, have planned another protest outside the Russian embassy this Friday.

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