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9 soldiers participating in military exercises ejected as Canada denounces occupation of Crimea
By Trinh Theresa Do, CBC News Posted: Mar 07, 2014 9:45 AM ET Last Updated: Mar 07, 2014 11:03 AM ET
Nine Russians soldiers participating in military exercises have been ordered to leave Canada by the end of today, as Canada continues to denounce the Russian occupation of the Crimean peninsula.
According to a government source, the soldiers were given notice on Thursday, just days after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced he was suspending all planned bilateral activities between the Canadian Armed Forces and the military of the Russian Federation.
There are six soldiers in Saint-Jean, Que., two at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick, and one soldier in Gatineau, Que.
The government has also temporarily withdrawn Canada’s ambassador to Russia.
The Russian ambassador, Georgiy Mamedov, remains in Ottawa.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will be in Montreal Friday afternoon to meet with leaders of the city’s Ukrainian community. He will be discussing the situation in Ukraine and the escalating tensions in Crimea.
The government has said it will also be suspending Canada’s participation in the Canada-Russia Intergovernmental Economic Commission, established to promote economic relations between Canada and Russia.
Referendum March 16
Canada has sent two military observers, part of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, to monitor the Russian military situation in Ukraine.
But the OSCE said Friday morning they have been refused access to Crimea.
“Military assessment visitors from OSCE States denied entry into Crimea on Friday, heading back to Kherson to plan next steps,” the organization announced in a tweet.
The Crimean parliament, dominated by ethnic Russians, voted Thursday in favour of the region joining Russia. They have set a referendum date for March 16, on which day citizens are able to vote whether or not Crimea will secede from Ukraine.
Western leaders have condemned the move.
“We will not accept, nor should anyone accept as legitimate, a referendum be called on 10 days’ notice while the state is under military occupation,” Baird told reporters on Parliament Hill Thursday afternoon.
“Russia has invaded Crimea. They’re occupying it with military force. No referendum can have any validity while that is taking place. ”
Baird speech to U.S. Chamber of Commerce17:03
Tom Mulcair interview 15:47
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird wants a decision soon on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, even if it’s not the one the federal government is counting on from the U.S. administration.
Baird told an audience at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., on Thursday that building Keystone XL would create thousands of jobs and prompt economic growth on both sides of the border.
“With the construction season coming up, I don’t want a single unemployed worker sitting at home when they could get a knock on the door saying ‘we’ve got a great job for you,’” Baird said.
“So if there’s one message I’m going to be promoting on this trip, it is that the time for Keystone is now. I’ll go further — the time for a decision on Keystone is now, even if it’s not the right one,” said Baird. “We can’t continue in this state of limbo.”
Baird outlined three key reasons why the TransCanada pipeline that would carry oil from Alberta to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico should get the green light from President Barack Obama. He said there would be “no significant environmental impact,” that Canadian oil would offset imports from other sources and that carrying oil by pipeline is favourable to carrying it by rail.
“U.S. energy independence is too important; the environment is too important; and our economic growth is too important,” Baird said about the need for a decision to be made one way or the other.
Baird is in Washington for the North American ministerial meeting with his counterparts Secretary of State John Kerry and Mexico’s Jose Antonio Meade. The meeting is Friday but he arrived early and had multiple meetings with American lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday and Thursday and with others including National SecurityAdviser Susan Rice.
It is Kerry’s department that is currently finishing off a final environmental assessment report on the Keystone XL proposal and Baird said he hopes that will be completed in the coming weeks. Then the final decision rests with Obama.
“We’ll be making a strong case that this is a priority for an important friend and ally of the United States,” Baird told reporters about his meeting Friday with Kerry.
He wouldn’t elaborate on any contingency plans if Obama rejects the pipeline project and said his government is focused on getting it approved. Baird said a number of safety improvements have been made to what was already a safe project and that the proposal has been thoroughly studied by a number of agencies in the U.S. capital.
“We believe that decision-time is upon us. We look forward in the coming weeks for the State Department to release its final report and for the president to make a decision,” Baird said. “This matters to Canada. We’re a close friend, we’re a close ally and we want to see this project go forward and that’s a big part of our visit to talk to folks here in Washington about.”
Baird also addressed other bilateral issues including trade and streamlining regulations through the Beyond the Border initiative during his remarks to the chamber of commerce.
Harper recently suggested the U.S president had “punted” a politically uncomfortable dilemma by adding additional steps to the regulatory process. Harper also told a US audience in New York last September that Canada would not take “no” for an answer on the Keystone XL pipeline.
Nanos Number: pipeline politics 6:52
In an attempt to press the Obama administration on its own turf, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird used the first day of a Washington visit to repeatedly call for a prompt decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.
He buttressed his case by making public appearances Wednesday with two pro-Keystone Democratic senators, who both expressed frustration with how long the administration has dragged out the decision.
Baird offered a snappy reply when asked if there’s anything pro-Keystone politicians on either side of the border could still say or do to influence a debate that has been going on for years.
“One politician — the president of the United States — can say yes to a great project to create jobs on both sides of the border, help with energy independence and energy security,” Baird replied, drawing a chuckle from the lawmaker next to him, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
“Decision time is upon us.”
He repeated the “decision time” phrase on three separate occasions at two public appearances Wednesday, making increasingly clear the Canadian government’s frustration over the prolonged approval process.
Baird held a half-dozen meetings on Capitol Hill and several other get-togethers throughout the day.
His two media appearances — both with pro-Keystone lawmakers from the president’s party — allowed them to air their own feelings.
— Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (@SenatorHeitkamp) January 15, 2014
“I will tell you the frustration that many of us have,” said Heitkamp.
“It has taken us longer to make a decision than it took us to defeat Hitler in the Second World War.”
‘Weeks’ until environmental review
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada would not take “no for an answer” until the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline is approved, last fall in New York. More recently, he suggested the U.S. president had “punted” a politically uncomfortable dilemma by adding additional steps to the regulatory process.
When asked how soon he expected a decision, Baird said the ongoing environmental review by the State Department could be completed and released “in the coming weeks,” soon after this month’s state of the union address.
After that, he said, a decision could be announced quickly.
He delivered a similar message during a meeting with Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, touted as the likely next chair of the Senate energy committee.
— Senator Landrieu (@SenLandrieu) January 15, 2014
With media invited into the meeting, she sympathetically placed a hand on Baird’s as she shared her regrets about how long the process had taken.
Landrieu, who faces a difficult re-election fight, said the project was popular in her state.
They used that public meeting to inform U.S. reporters that Canada has the same greenhouse-gas standards as the U.S., the same vehicle-emissions standards, and has done more to phase out coal.
Baird also met with U.S. Senator Bob Corker who posted a picture of his meeting with the foreign affairs minister after his approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
#KeystoneXL will create jobs, expand access to North American energy and strengthen ties with Canada, our largest trading partner. -BC
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) January 15, 2014
During his three-day trip, Baird also has meetings with Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and several think-tanks.
He’s also scheduled to speak Thursday to business leaders.