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Protesters call on Ottawa to impose stiff sanctions against Ukraine leaders

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird talks about the situation in the Ukraine on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday January 28, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

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Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird talks about the situation in the Ukraine on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday January 28, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA - Ukrainian Canadians and opposition MPs are calling on the Harper Conservatives to impose sanctions on Ukraine's government in response to the continuing crackdown on protests in that country.

On Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced that senior Ukraine officials would be barred from entering Canada.

The move was in response to violent clashes between protesters and police in Ukraine.

A few dozen people held a demonstration Wednesday in Ottawa in solidarity with the Ukrainian protests.

They called on the Harper government to go further than symbolic measures, and impose economic sanctions against Ukraine's political class.

The call came as Ukraine's first post-independence president, Leonid Kravchuk, warned that his country was on the brink of civil war.

Kravchuk urged the Ukrainian parliament to act responsibly as it debates whether to provide an amnesty for detained protesters.

President Viktor Yanukovych wants any amnesty to be conditional on protesters removing barricades and leaving government buildings.

The protests began in November after Yanukovych reversed a decision to sign a long-awaited trade deal with the European Union in favour of stronger ties with Russia.

At least five people have been killed during protests and a number of government buildings across the country have been occupied.

Demonstrators in Ottawa said if Canada does impose sanctions against Ukraine, they should be careful not to target the general population.

"I think what you need to do is start to look where the money is," said Nadia Dubik. "It's a time-consuming and difficult process but we have to start it."

New Democrat MP Paul Dewar called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to personally call Yanukovych to voice his displeasure with what is taking place in Ukraine, as U.S. President Barack Obama has already done.

And he added his voice to those calling for stiffer action against the Yanukovych regime.

"We will ask that our government put economic individual sanctions on those who are taking out the treasure of Ukraine and spiriting it out of the country," Dewar told demonstrators on Parliament Hill.

"These sanctions must be put in place to send a strong message."

Canada stands in solidarity with the forces of democracy in Ukraine, added Liberal MP Marc Garneau.

An official in Immigration Minister Chris Alexander's office said the government was continuing to monitor developments in Ukraine on Wednesday and would consider taking further steps if necessary.

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