Exclusive: Canada trimmed Russia sanctions to protect business interests

(Reuters) – Canada broke with the United States and did not impose sanctions on two key allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin because the pair had Canadian business interests, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The revelation puts into question the government’s tough line on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine. Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently compared Putin’s actions to those of Adolf Hitler in the run-up to World War Two.

Canada, home to 1.2 million people of Ukrainian descent, has imposed sanctions on more than 80 Russian and Ukrainian officials and businesses, compared to about 60 by the United States.

But unlike the United States, Canada has not moved against Sergei Chemezov, who heads state-owned industrial and defense conglomerate Rostec, and Igor Sechin, CEO of oil giant Rosneft. Both men, who are close to Putin, have business ties to Canada.