Harper says Ukraine leaning to Soviet past

OTTAWA, Ont. — Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed concern Monday that Ukraine is backsliding toward its communist past under the Soviet Union, a clear dig at Russia as it prepares to host next month’s Winter Olympics.

OTTAWA, Ont. — Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed concern Monday that Ukraine is backsliding toward its communist past under the Soviet Union, a clear dig at Russia as it prepares to host next month’s Winter Olympics.

The prime minister offered that sharp assessment in the House of Commons in response to a question from NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

“We are very concerned that these actions speak (of) not moving towards a free and democratic Euro-Atlantic future but very much towards an anti-democratic Soviet past,” Harper said.

Harper’s remarks represented a shot across the bow of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been accused of exerting pressure on Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych to curb his country’s overtures to the West.

The protests began in late November when the government abandoned an agreement to strengthen economic co-operation with the European Union, in favour of closer ties with Russia.

Anger rose sharply earlier this month after the government imposed a tough new law aimed at curbing protests.

That sparked clashes between demonstrators and police that have left three protesters dead.

Canada has repeatedly called on Ukraine to embrace co-operation with the democratic EU, instead of moving to align with Russia. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, along with other Western foreign ministers, visited the protesters in Kyiv last month to show support.

Mulcair wanted to know what Canada can do to help defuse the escalating crisis that has seen anti-government demonstrators deepening their protest by occupying four large buildings in downtown Kyiv. “We have certainly condemned the actions. We have been very outspoken with many around the international community and condemning some of the actions of the Ukrainian government,” Harper said.

“We will continue to vocalize our concerns, to work with the Canadian-Ukrainian community and our allies to take all appropriate actions necessary to encourage the government of Ukraine to move in a positive direction.”

On their first day back to work in Ottawa on Monday, MPs scheduled an emergency take-note debate to condemn the Ukraine government’s conduct in the continuing crisis.

Conservative MP Ted Opitz, whose Toronto riding has a significant Ukrainian constituency, accused the Ukrainian government of imposing martial law and using “lethal force to quash freedoms and violate human rights.”

The Harper government, like its Liberal predecessors, holds strong views toward the Ukraine because of the deep historical roots of Canadians of Ukrainian descent in Canada, a product of half a dozen waves of immigration dating back well over a century.

“We stand with the Ukrainian people, who courageously continue to speak out in support of democracy,” Conservative MP David Anderson told the Commons.

Canada’s ambassador for religious freedom also highlighted the plight of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

Ambassador Andrew Bennett, who visited Ukraine over the weekend, said Yanukovych’s attempted intimidation of the small church could be a sign of worse things to come for other religious minorities.

“The new laws passed by President Viktor Yanukovych give the Ukrainian government, police and security services harsh new powers that severely limit individual rights and freedoms,” Bennett said in a statement Monday.

“This is fundamentally inconsistent with democratic practice and of grave concern to all who are committed to a free and democratic Ukraine.”

Follow (at)mblanchfield on Twitter

Just Posted

Red Deer man says more cardiac care needed here

Ryan Gillies spent several extra days in hospital waiting to get a stent in Edmonton

Red Deer gets ready for CFR 45

A $20 to $25-million annual injection to the local economy

Former Red Deer teacher going to trial on child porn charges

Charges were laid in January 2017 after a woman came forward

Red Deer agency reports more than 1,000 lives saved with naloxone

Turning Point distributes 5,855 naloxone kits

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month