Canada hits Moscow with more sanctions over Ukraine

A pro-Russian rebel carries ammunition to be loaded onto a truck near the eastern Ukrainian city of Debaltseve on February 17, 2015 (AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov)

Ottawa (AFP) - Canada announced Tuesday new sanctions against Moscow and its sympathizers, including the state oil giant Rosneft, as pro-Russian separatists defied a ceasefire and stormed a flashpoint town in eastern Ukraine.

Two months after sanctions took aim at Russian interests in its vital oil and gas sectors, Canada targeted a flagship of the Russian economy in Rosneft.

The new economic sanctions and travel bans target 37 Russian and Ukrainian individuals, as well as economic sanctions against 17 Russian and Ukrainian entities, including Rosneft.

"Our Government remains steadfast in its commitment to stand with the people of Ukraine in the face of the Putin regime’s ongoing military aggression, which has already cost the lives of more than 5,300 people," Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.

"Canada's position remains clear: we recognize the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and will never recognize the illegal Russian occupation of any part of the country."

The move was made in coordination with the European Union and the United States, which have also punished Moscow for what they say is its military backing of the separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin rejects the accusation and describes the Russian fighters seen in Ukraine as "volunteers."

Ukraine early Tuesday appealed to the West to get "tough" on Moscow after separatists attacked Debaltseve, a transport hub, in violation of the three-day-old ceasefire.

"The collective sanctions imposed to date by Canada and its partners are putting real economic pressure on the Putin regime and its collaborators," Harper added.

"The cost to Russia will continue to rise if it persists in its escalation of the conflict and refuses to allow a peaceful resolution."