A Russian soldier guards a pier where two Ukrainian naval vessels are moored, in Sevastopol, Ukraine, on Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Ukraine's new prime minister said Wednesday that embattled Crimea must remain part of Ukraine, but may be granted more local powers. Since last weekend, Russian troops have taken control of much of the peninsula in the Black Sea, where Russian speakers are in the majority. Ivan Sekretarev/The Associated Press
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The government has also temporarily withdrawn Canada's ambassador to Russia.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. "
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