Canada ups sanctions against Yanukovych regime

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb 12, 2014. Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych and his ministers linked to violence against protesters are no longer welco
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb 12, 2014. Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych and his ministers linked to violence against protesters are no longer welcome in Canada, Mr Harper said on Feb 20, 2014 in announcing sanctions. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

OTTAWA (AFP) - Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych and his ministers linked to violence against protesters are no longer welcome in Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday in announcing sanctions.

The Canadian move came after European Union foreign ministers in Brussels imposed sanctions on Ukrainian ministers and security officials with "blood on their hands," while German, American and Russian leaders backed a "political solution" to the crisis.

Ukraine's three-month stalemate has plunged into an orgy of bloodshed, claiming nearly 100 lives - mostly of protesters shot dead by police at point blank range in Kiev - since Tuesday night.

"The outrageous violence being witnessed by the world must cease, and we hold the regime responsible for these actions against its own citizens," Harper said in a statement.

In addition to an expanded travel ban on the regime's senior leaders, the prime minister also announced new economic sanctions against Yanukovych and his supporters.

"It is our hope that these serious steps will convince the Ukrainian government to seek a peaceful resolution to the crisis." Earlier, the embattled Ukrainian leader finally moved closer to holding early elections, one of the opposition's main demands.

Canada has a large Ukrainian diaspora - there are 1.2 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent, according to the latest census.

Before an escalation of clashes between anti-government protesters and police left dozens dead, Ottawa had been seeking closer ties with Kiev in the post-Soviet era.

This week, the Canadian government announced medical supplies would be provided for the protesters, and sheltered a small group seeking refuge at its embassy in Kiev before shuttering the mission on Wednesday.

"Our government, working with the Ukrainian-Canadian community... will continue to stand by the Ukrainian people in their fight for a free and democratic Ukraine," said Harper.