Hard to see how Russia can ever be let back into G7 club: Canada PM

Reuters

OTTAWA (Reuters) - It is hard to envisage how Russia could ever be allowed back into the Group of major industrialized nations, given Moscow's aggression in Ukraine, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Saturday.

Russia formally joined the G7 in 1998, when the body was renamed the G8. Members voted in March to suspend Russia, citing its role in the Crimea conflict.

"Through its actions, Russia under President Vladimir Putin has demonstrated that it does not share the values of this community of nations, dedicated as we are to democracy, international security, and the rule of law," Harper wrote in an editorial in the Globe and Mail newspaper.

"Given this, it is difficult to foresee any circumstance under which Mr. Putin's Russia could be readmitted to the family of G7 nations," he said.

Harper's right-leaning Conservatives took power in 2006, since when Ottawa's relations with Russia have rarely been better than cool. Harper took a hard line from the start of the Ukrainian crisis, demanding Russia be kicked out of the G8.

"With Mr. Putin's Russia increasingly autocratic at home and dangerously aggressive abroad, now is not the time to ease the diplomatic and economic pressure on the regime," said Harper.

Canada has imposed sanctions on nearly 150 Ukrainian and Russian individuals and entities and promised more than C$220 million ($204 million) in loans and loan guarantees to Ukraine. Kiev's ambassador to Canada complained this week that none of the aid had been handed over.

Harper said the money would flow "once the appropriate conditions have been met to ensure that the funds are being used for their intended purposes" - an apparent reference to concerns about widespread corruption in Ukraine.

Despite Canada's tough line on Russia, it has so far not sanctioned two key Putin allies who have Canadian business interests.

After the downing of a Malaysian airliner over rebel-held eastern Ukraine last week the European Union has taken a tougher stance against Russia. On Friday the EU reached an outline agreement to impose the first economic sanctions on Russia.

($1=$1.08 Canadian)

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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