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Harper in Kyiv as first G7 leader to stand beside new regime in Ukraine

Harper calls for "complete reversal" of Russian annexation of Crimean peninsula

Stephen Harper paid a visit to Ukraine on Saturday, becoming the first G7 leader to witness the devastation in Kyiv.

The prime minister took in the battle-scarred city square at the heart of the country's pro-democracy uprising last month.

Dozens of Ukrainians lost their lives in and around Independence Square, gunned down by their own military, as they ultimately drove out the country's former regime and sparked a stunning chain of events that saw Russia formally annex Crimea.

Harper called for a "complete reversal'' of Russia's subsequent annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

He laid a large bouquet of red carnations along a stone wall near the square, which now serves as a shrine to the victims. He was followed by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Justice Minister Peter MacKay.

"It is for Ukrainians, and for Ukrainians only, to decide their future,'' Harper told a news conference with the interim Ukrainian prime minister shortly before his visit to the square.

"In this principle, Canada will not waver. And to help the Ukrainian people peacefully secure a bright future of freedom, we shall spare no effort.''

He gave interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk the Ukrainian flag that flew on Parliament Hill during part of the country's uprising.

Harper, meantime, reiterated his tough stance against Russia.

"For Ukraine, the consequences of the actions of the Putin regime are obvious and can only be remedied by their complete reversal,'' he said.

"All of us who desire peace and stability in the world must recognize that the consequences of these actions will be felt far beyond the borders of Ukraine or even the European continent itself.''

He also provided a preview of what he's likely to argue to his fellow G7 leaders at an emergency summit in The Hague on Monday on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit.

"I think it is important that we in the free world not accept the occupation of Crimea, that we continue to resist and sanction the occupation of Crimea and that there be no return to business as usual with the Putin regime until such time as  the occupation of Crimea ends,'' he said.

Back at the square, startling scenes of enduring carnage surrounded the Canadians on an otherwise warm and sunny day.

As Ukrainians revelled in the sunshine and strolled through the square, they made their way past makeshift barriers made of tires, bricks and household items, designed to shield demonstrators from rooftop snipers just a few weeks ago.

Heaps of flowers were plentiful, marking the spots where Ukrainians died.

Photos of the dead were plastered everywhere in the soot-stained square.

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  1. Only Common Sense posted on 03/22/2014 10:36 PM
    Yet another expensive photo-op for our suddenly "worldly" PM.
    At least this time he didn't take 200 other people with him.
  2. AC posted on 03/23/2014 04:30 AM
    There goes 220 mil of our money down the tubes.
    so this so-called leader Harpi is chumin with who is he? anyone know any freakin thing about this man? throw out an elected guy now this unelected guy is our friend or wants our money. does Ukraine not have impeachment laws? so violance ruled?
    Canada should mind its own business. we don't have a voice that anyone is listening to.
    I like my Canada as a soft power the way we once were. respected and neutral.
    unfortunately under Harper on foreign policy he sucks.
  3. Mark posted on 03/23/2014 09:00 AM
    Well done Harper. Other than the foolish leftist twits that live among us, Canadians are proud and happy that you have the guts and the leadership to be in Ukraine during this difficult time for them. You have proven to Ukraine that they are not alone and that they have support from one of the worlds greatest countries.

    I'm sure that man-boy Justin and the rest of the immoral liar liberals are green with envy and impressed with the leadership you have shown with regards to many world issues.

    A while back you stood alone by not throwing support to the rebels in Syria who fight their despot dictator. You where the only G8 leader to do so. Fact is, you were right again because others soon became aware that those rebels where beheading innocent people, and not worthy of support from civilized nations.

    Again, congratulations from millions of Canadians who support this endeavor.
  4. sam posted on 03/23/2014 09:17 AM
    I'm sorry to burst anyone's bubble but no one cares on what Canada thinks.
    Canada isn't a player on the world stage. thank you Mr. Harper under your leadership on things like your blatant support in the Middle East we were denied a seat on the UN Security Council. Your hypocrisy on some people deserve freedom while others should live under occupation and oppression is there for everyone to see.
    1. Karl Burgin posted on 03/24/2014 10:27 AM
      @sam You never know....usually when you take a stance being on the thin edge of the wedge, that people take notice.
      I wasn't really a Harper fan of late (throwing people under the bus in 'Duffy-Gate'), but taking a stand here is a good call- and I gotta applaud the man for it.

      Obviously he can't do this all the time- but whenever he gets a chance to do so, every little bit helps.
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