Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes part in a joint press conference with Ukrainian Prime Minister Areseniy Yatsenyuk at the Cabinet of Ministers in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday, March 22, 2014. Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is making it clear he wants G7 leaders to expel Russia from the G8 group of industrialized nations.
Harper made a brief visit to Kyiv on Saturday. He laid flowers at a makeshift memorial for some of those killed during the overthrow of president Viktor Yanukovych. He also met with members of the country's interim government.
During a news conference with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Harper was asked about the impromptu meeting of G7 leaders scheduled for Monday at a nuclear summit in The Hague. Harper expects there will be discussion of whether Russia should be cast out of the G8.
"I don't think it takes much imagination for you to figure out what my view on that is," Harper said.
"But I will certainly listen to what our partners in the G7 have to say."
Harper has repeatedly criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for his takeover of Crimea. Russia is formally annexing the region, arguing it is a traditionally Russian territory. He went after the Russian president again on Saturday in a brief speech delivered alongside the Ukrainian prime minister.
"For Ukraine, the consequences of the actions of the Putin regime are obvious and can only be remedied by their complete reversal," Harper said.
"Furthermore, 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."
Setback for nuclear disarmament?
Harper accuses Russia of not only wrongfully seizing the Crimean peninsula but of setting back the cause of nuclear disarmament. Russia guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial integrity in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. In return for that assurance, Ukraine agreed to give up the nuclear arsenal it inherited after the break-up of the former Soviet Union.
By violating this agreement, Harper says Putin has given countries around the world an excuse to refuse to disarm and instead to "arm themselves to the teeth."
Ukraine's prime minister agreed.
"It will be very difficult to convince anyone in the world — starting with Iran and then with North Korea — to give up its nuclear weapons," Yatsenyuk said.
"Russia violating international agreements, Russia making an armed robbery of Ukrainian independent territory undermines global security."
As for next week's G7 meeting, Yatsenyuk says his message to leaders is that the world needs a new global security system to respond in a strong and rapid manner when countries find their sovereignty and territorial integrity under threat. And even with the enormous stress Ukraine is facing in the current crisis, Yatsenyuk was able to make light of the question of Russia's membership in the G8.
"If G8 has an empty seat, we are ready to take it," he said
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