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Calls for Canada to stop arms sales with Russia

Calls for Canada to stop arms sales with RussiaIn this May 7, 2013 file photo, Russian missile launchers make their way through Red Square in Moscow. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Alexander Zemlianichenko

WINNIPEG - The federal New Democrats want Canada to suspend sales of military equipment to Russia in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine.

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar acknowledged the move would be largely symbolic given that Canada doesn't sell a lot of weaponry to Russia.

But he said it would send an important message, particularly to fellow G7 countries who are move heavily involved in trading arms with Russia.

"Clearly we should ban all military sales. Germany just did this two days ago. I am saying to our government, that is something we should do," Dewar said Friday at an event hosted by the Winnipeg Free Press.

"We don't sell a lot to Russia, but I think it is obvious that we should be taking actions like this."

Adam Hodge, press secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, said in a statement that Canada has "no bilateral military exports" to the Russian Federation, adding a significant portion of what is exported is software.

Nonetheless, he said Baird has ordered his staff to seek his approval before any export transaction is made between the countries.

"Nothing will be approved which could benefit the Russian military in any form," said Hodge.

The NDP says Canada sold just over $329,000 in gear to Russia between 2007 and 2011 —mostly in guns, armoured equipment and electronic technology. The party compiled that figure from annual reports to Parliament on the administration of the Export and Import Controls Permits Act.

Russia officially annexed Crimea after Russian troops took over the strategic Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula and a referendum was quickly organized.

The Conservative government has already placed economic sanctions and travel restrictions on senior officials in Russia and Ukraine, particularly those in Crimea.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was heading to Ukraine on Friday to become the first leader of a G7 nation to visit the eastern European country since pro-western demonstrators drove out its government last month.

Earlier this week, Germany also halted a deal to build a military training centre in Russia.

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