Russia on Monday banned 43 more Canadians from entering its territory, in response to sanctions imposed by Ottawa over Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine.
Canada then hit back with another round of sanctions against six Russians and 46 companies linked to the country’s defence sector.
The new blacklist published by the Russian foreign ministry includes Suzanne Cowan, leader of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party, and Mark Carney, former governor of the Canadian and British central banks.
Senior civil servants, political advisers, and members of civil society are also penalised.
The foreign ministry in Moscow criticised the “belligerent Russophobia” of Trudeau’s government.
It said the new bans were in retaliation for Canada’s introduction in May of new sanctions targeting the heads of Russian companies and members of their families.
Trudeau, in Germany for G7 talks, has also signalled Ottawa’s intention to roll out measures “to counter the Kremlin’s disinformation” and ban exports of technologies such as quantum computers and advanced manufacturing equipment that it says could be used in Russian defence manufacturing.
Since the start of its offensive in Ukraine, Russia has banned more than 700 Canadians from entering its territory, including those announced on Monday.
In May, the Kremlin closed down the Moscow office of Canadian national public broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada and cancelled its journalists’ visas and accreditation passes.
The move was in retaliation for Canada’s decision in March to ban Russian state media outlet RT.
The latest measures announced by Trudeau bring to more than 1,070 the total number of individuals and entities in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus that Canada has sanctioned since Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine started on February 24.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Sunday that Moscow will strike new targets if the West supplies long-range missiles to Ukraine and said new arms deliveries to Kyiv were aimed at “prolonging the conflict”.
If Kyiv is supplied with long-range missiles, “we will draw the appropriate conclusions and use our arms…. to strike targets we haven’t hit before,” Putin was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.
In extracts of an interview to be broadcast late Sunday on Rossiya-1 television, Putin did not specify exactly which targets could be hit nor the exact range of the missiles to which Moscow would react.
But his comments came just days after the United States announced it would supply Ukraine with Himars multiple launch rocket systems.
Himars is a mobile unit that can simultaneously launch multiple precision-guided missiles up to 80 kilometres (50 miles) away.
Military experts say that the range of the Himars systems is slightly longer than that of similar Russian systems, meaning Kyiv’s forces could strike enemy artillery while keeping out of Moscow’s reach.
US President Joe Biden has nevertheless ruled out supplying Ukraine with systems that could reach as far as Russia, despite Kyiv’s repeated demands for such weapons.
Putin said that there was “nothing new” in the weapons supplied by Washington to Kyiv, and that Ukrainian forces had at their disposal weapons “similar to Soviet- or Russian-made systems”.
The range of the missiles did not “depend on the system itself, but on the missiles used,” the Russian leader continued.
“From what we know and understand today, they are systems using missiles with range of 45-70 kilometres”.
Putin said that the sole aim of the West supplying arms to Ukraine was “to prolong the conflict for as long as possible”.
Chelsea have some clarity after an uncertain few months with the consortium led by LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly set to buy the Premier League giants.
The Boehly group, which includes fellow Dodgers co-owner Mark Walter, Swiss billionaire Hansjoerg Wyss and US investment firm Clearlake Capital have committed to a deal worth £4.25 billion ($5.2 billion), a record for a sports club.
A sum of £1.75 billion is earmarked for future investment in the club with the other £2.5 billion frozen due to the sanctions imposed on current owner Roman Abramovich.
The Russian oligarch has insisted his intention is for all of the proceeds to be donated to victims of the war in Ukraine.
The sale brings to an end Abramovich’s 19-year reign during which the Blues have enjoyed unparallelled success.
Chelsea won five Premier League titles and two Champions League among 19 major trophies.
But the Abramovich era was brought down by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as he was sanctioned by the UK government for his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
AFP Sport looks at the job that lies ahead for the future Chelsea owners.
The Italian authorities on Friday impounded a mega yacht at the centre of a mystery over its ownership as speculation swirled it might even belong to the Russian president.
“Scheherazade”, worth an estimated $700 million, has been the subject of a probe into its ownership by Italy’s financial police.
The Italian probe has helped “establish significant economic and business links between the person who officially possesses the Scheherazade and eminent people in the Russian government,” as well as Russian figures sanctioned by the West following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Italian Ministry of Economy and finance said in a statement.
Following the probe, “the minister of Economy and Finance, Daniele Franco, has signed a decree impounding” the yacht, the statement added.
It had been berthed for several months for maintenance work at a shipyard at the Marina di Carrara, within the western seaside town of Massa.
But the yacht was back on the water and seemed about to set sail on Friday, an AFP photographer said before the Italian government statement was issued.
President Joe Biden announced Friday a new US weapons package worth $150 million for Ukraine’s fight to repel Russia’s invasion.
“I am announcing another package of security assistance that will provide additional artillery munitions, radars, and other equipment to Ukraine,” Biden said while warning that funding was close to running out and urging Congress to authorize more.
According to a senior US official, the package includes 25,000 155mm artillery rounds, counter-artillery radars used for detecting the source of enemy fire, electronic jamming equipment, and spare parts.
The artillery munitions appear to be meant for recently supplied US howitzers.
Friday’s new batch brings the total value of US weaponry sent by the Biden administration to Ukraine — including heavy artillery, shoulder-held Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, and drones — to $3.8 billion since Russia launched its invasion on February 24, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
Friday’s package means the remaining $250 million available from previously authorized funding for Ukraine will have all but run out. Biden is pressing Congress to authorize a huge $33 billion Ukraine package, which would include $20 billion in military assistance, and last for five months.
Biden and the rest of the G7 leaders, plus Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, are meeting virtually on Sunday to discuss Western support for the country in its struggle against President Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
“The United States has provided a historic amount of security assistance to Ukraine at rapid speed. We are sending the weapons and equipment that Congress has authorized directly to the front lines of freedom in Ukraine,” Biden said in a statement.
However, Biden said current funding was “nearly exhausted” and that “for Ukraine to succeed,” the United States and its allies must “keep the weapons and ammunition flowing to Ukraine, without interruption.”
“Congress should quickly provide the requested funding to strengthen Ukraine on the battlefield and at the negotiating table,” he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told French counterpart Emmanuel Macron Tuesday the West must stop supplying weapons to Ukraine and accused Kyiv of not taking talks to end the conflict seriously, the Kremlin said.
Accusing Ukrainian forces of committing war crimes and claiming the EU was “ignoring” them, Putin told Macron “the West could help stop these atrocities by putting relevant pressure on the Kyiv authorities, as well as halting the supply of weapons to Ukraine”.
Putin also said Kyiv was not being consistent or ready for “serious work” on ending the conflict.
“The Russian side is still open to dialogue,” the Russian leader told Macron, according to the Kremlin readout.
Macron’s Elysee Palace office said that beyond reiterating calls on Russia to end the assault on its neighbour with a ceasefire and peace talks, he had urged Putin to allow evacuations from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in port city Mariupol to continue.
He also offered to “work with the relevant international organisations to help lift the Russian blockade on Ukrainian food exports via the Black Sea, given its consequences for global food security”.
For his part, Putin linked the food situation to Western sanctions against Russia and “noted the importance of the unimpeded functioning of the global logistics and transport infrastructure”, the Kremlin said.
Macron is one of the few Western leaders to speak to Putin since Moscow moved troops into Ukraine on February 24, spending hours on telephone calls trying to negotiate a resolution to the conflict.
The conflict has killed thousands of people and displaced more than 13 million, creating the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.
The US hopes its diplomats will be able to return to Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, where Washington closed its embassy days before the Russian invasion, “by the end of the month”, embassy charge d’affaires Kristina Kvien said Monday.
“We very much hope that conditions will permit us to go back to Kyiv by the end of the month,” Kvien said at a press conference in the western city of Lviv.
The US closed its embassy in Kyiv on February 14, ten days before Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, and moved its diplomats westwards.
Kvien said she and her staff were “working day and night in Poland” to “help Ukraine win this war.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been invited to the G20 summit in November, which will also be attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the president of host nation Indonesia said Friday.
“I have invited President Zelenskyy to attend the G20 summit,” said Joko Widodo, suggesting a compromise had been reached following Western pressure to bar Russia from the event in response to its invasion of Ukraine.
Putin confirmed in a phone call with Widodo he will attend the summit, to take place on Bali island, the Indonesian leader said in a livestreamed address.
Russia is a G20 member, while Ukraine is not.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Indonesia has faced fierce pressure from Western countries, led by the United States, to bar Russia from the summit.
But Jakarta had insisted that, as the host, it must remain impartial, while US President Joe Biden had suggested Ukraine could take part.
Zelensky had announced in a tweet that he was invited to the summit by Indonesia on Wednesday, following a call with Widodo.
President Vladimir Putin warned Wednesday that if any other country intervenes in Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine, Russia will launch a quick-fire military response.
Speaking to lawmakers, Putin said that “if anyone sets out to intervene in the current events from the outside and creates unacceptable threats for us that are strategic in nature, they should know that our response… will be lightning-fast”.
The Russian leader said that the military would not hesitate to use the most modern weaponry.
“We have all the tools for this, that no one else can boast of having. We won’t boast about it: we’ll use them if needed. And I want everyone to know that,” Putin said.
“We have already taken all the decisions on this.”
Putin has frequently touted Russia’s development of modern weaponry, including hypersonic missiles and the new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile that was successfully tested earlier this month.
Moscow said Wednesday it was expelling eight Japanese diplomats in a tit-for-tat response to expulsions by Tokyo over the conflict in Ukraine.
Accusing Tokyo of pursuing an “openly hostile anti-Russian course,” the foreign ministry said in a statement that the Japanese diplomats must leave by May 10, in a reciprocal answer to Japan’s expulsion of eight Russian diplomats.
It accused Tokyo of “taking steps that were unprecedented in modern Russian-Japanese relations” and “abandoning friendly, constructive relations with Russia”.
Russia halted gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday, after blasts in a breakaway region of neighbouring Moldova led Kyiv to accuse Moscow of seeking to expand the Ukraine war further into Europe.
The Russian energy giant Gazprom said it had cut supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, in Moscow’s latest use of gas as a weapon in a conflict that has now dragged into its third month and claimed thousands of lives.
Explosions this week targeting the state security ministry, a radio tower and military unit in neighbouring Moldova’s region of Transnistria — occupied by Moscow’s forces for decades — followed a Kremlin commander’s claims Russian speakers in the country were being oppressed.
That triggered alarm that Moldova could be Russia’s next target in its push into Europe, with Moscow having exploited similar fears after launching its bloody invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
“Russia wants to destabilise the Transnistrian region,” Mykhaylo Podolyak, a Ukraine presidential aide, wrote on Twitter.
“If Ukraine falls, tomorrow Russian troops will be at Chisinau’s gates,” he said, referring to Moldova’s capital.
The United States echoed similar concerns — though stopped short of backing Kyiv’s contention that Russia was responsible.
“We fully support Moldova’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
‘Heaven And Earth’
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has been lobbying for heavier firepower to push back the Russian advance now focused on the eastern region of Donbas.
Western allies are wary of being drawn into an outright war with Russia, but Washington pledged Tuesday at a summit to move “heaven and earth” to enable Ukraine to emerge victorious.
“Ukraine clearly believes that it can win and so does everyone here,” US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin told 40 allies gathered at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
With arms flowing into Ukraine, Germany announced Tuesday it would send anti-aircraft tanks — a sharp U-turn dropping its much-criticised cautious stance.
Britain will also on Wednesday urge Kyiv’s allies to “ramp up” military production including tanks and planes to help Ukraine, with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss set to call for a “new approach” to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We must be prepared for the long haul and double down on our support for Ukraine,” she is set to say, according to pre-released remarks.
“Heavy weapons, tanks, aeroplanes — digging deep into our inventories, ramping up production. We need to do all of this,” she will add.
“There must be nowhere for Putin to go to fund this appalling war.”
Truss will also urge Europe to cut off Russian energy imports “once and for all” — a move that would deprive Moscow of a key source of leverage over its dependent western neighbours.
Underlining that precarity, energy giant Gazprom said Wednesday it had informed Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz and Poland’s PGNiG about the “suspension of gas supplies from April 27 until payment is made” in rubles.
President Putin last month said Russia would only accept payment for deliveries in its national currency.
On The Brink
Fighting continues to rage across Ukraine’s east, Kyiv’s defence ministry said, announcing Wednesday that Russian forces had pushed deeper into the east of the country and captured several villages as part of its offensive to take control of Donbas.
Russia said it had carried out high-precision missile strikes against 32 Ukrainian military targets including four ammunition depots on Tuesday.
It also launched air strikes against 33 targets, as well as 100 artillery and rocket strikes.
In the south, two Russian missiles struck the industrial city of Zaporizhzhia, which has welcomed many civilians fleeing Mariupol, regional authorities said.
Russian forces are expected to soon advance on the city, which is located near Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant.
And at the site of the world’s world-ever atomic disaster, Chernobyl in northern Ukraine observed the 36th anniversary of the meltdown back under Kyiv’s control.
The sprawling complex fell into Russian hands on the day Moscow’s troops began their invasion in February, suffered a power and communications outage that raised alarm about a possible new calamity at the site.
That put the world “on the brink of disaster”, Zelensky said at a press conference with UN atomic watchdog chief Rafael Grossi, adding that Russian troops’ conduct showed that “no one in the world can feel safe.”
“For the Russian military, the Chernobyl zone and the plant was like a normal battleground, territory where they didn’t even try to care about nuclear safety,” he said.
To the east, at the entrance to Barvinkove, six Ukrainian soldiers were ready at any moment to dive into their trench, which they dig every day with a shovel.
“Otherwise, we’re dead,” said Vasyl, 51, who serves with his 22-year-old son Denys.
Ukraine officials said there was fighting all along the frontlines in the Donetsk region, and that resistance in the Azovstal factory in the besieged port city of Mariupol was still holding out.
The country’s best-known singer Sviatoslav Vakarchuk made a morale-boosting visit to the eastern front, where a military press officer admitted the situation was difficult.
“It’s far from rosy,” Iryna Rybakova, of the 93rd brigade, told AFP.
“Of course, we were prepared for this war, especially the professional army, but for those who’ve been recruited, it’s more complicated.”
The UN’s refugee agency said it now expects more than eight million Ukrainians to eventually flee their country, with nearly 5.3 million already out, and that $1.85 billion would be needed to host them in neighbouring countries.
In a meeting with Putin, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for Moscow and Kyiv to work together to set up aid and evacuation corridors in war-torn Ukraine.
He also called for an independent investigation into “possible war crimes” in Ukraine.
“I am concerned about the repeated reports of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and possible war crimes,” Guterres said.
“And they require independent investigation for effective accountability.”
Russia on Thursday slapped travel bans on US Vice President Kamala Harris, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg and dozens of prominent Americans and Canadians in retaliation for sanctions imposed over Ukraine.
The Russian foreign ministry said the travel restrictions on 29 Americans and 61 Canadians — which also includes defence officials, business leaders and journalists from both countries — would remain in effect indefinitely.
The foreign ministry said the list was comprised of people responsible for the two countries’ “Russophobic” policies.
In Washington, one of the officials targeted, State Department spokesman Ned Price, said that the travel ban was “an honour.”
“I have to say it is nothing less than an accolade to have earned the ire of a government that lies to its own people, brutalises its neighbours and seeks to create a world where freedom and liberty are put on the run and, if they had their way, extinguished,” Price told reporters.
Asked if he had to cancel any travel plans to Russia, Price quipped: “Fortunately I had no rubles and even if I did they would be worthless by now anyway.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, also on the list, retorted that it was “a good group to belong to.”
The United States has led international efforts to impose sweeping sanctions on Russia over its military operation in Ukraine, causing tumult in its economy.
The United States and European Union have personally sanctioned a number of Russians including President Vladimir Putin, his daughters and oligarchs seen as crucial to the Russian leader’s power.
Other Americans banned Thursday by Russia include ABC News television presenter George Stephanopoulos, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius and the Russia-focused Meduza news site’s editor Kevin Rothrock.
Apart from Kirby, US defence officials include Deputy Secretary of Defence Kathleen Hicks.
The list of Canadians is headed by Cameron Ahmad, who serves as director of communications to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Canadian Special Operations Forces Commander Steve Boivin.
Russia had earlier banned Facebook and Instagram, which form part of Zuckerberg’s Meta empire, calling them “extremist” organisations.