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MOSCOW, March 24 (Reuters) - Russia announced on Monday that it was barring 13 Canadian officials, lawmakers and public figures in retaliation for sanctions imposed by Canada over Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
The Canadians prohibited from entering Russia include aides to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, members of parliament and the head of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Paul Grod, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“This step was taken in response to unacceptable actions by the Canadian side which have done serious damage to bilateral relations,” the ministry said, adding that Canada “chose to ignore the free expression of will of Crimean residents.”
Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia in a March 16 referendum dismissed as a sham by Western governments who say it violated Ukraine’s constitution and was held only after Russian forces seized control of the Black Sea peninsula.
The United States, Canada and the European Union have imposed visa bans and asset freezes on several Russians.
Canada, home to an estimated 1.2 million Ukrainians, has joined the United States in imposing sanctions on the St. Petersburg-based Bank Rossiya, whose chairman is an ally of President Vladimir Putin.
Russia responded to the first wave of U.S. sanctions by barring 11 American officials and lawmakers last week. (Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)