OTTAWA - Ominous developments in Ukraine have prompted Prime Minister Stephen Harper to strongly condemn Russia military intervention in the country while urging President Vladimir Putin to withdraw his troops immediately.

In a statement issued following a rare emergency cabinet meeting held Saturday afternoon, Harper said Canada is recalling its ambassador from Moscow and pulling out of the G8 process being chaired by Russia.

At the same time, Canada is recognizing the legitimacy of the new, pro-Western Ukrainian government.

"Ukraine's sovereign territory must be respected and the Ukrainian people must be free to determine their own future," Harper said in his statement. "We call on President Putin to immediately withdraw his forces to their bases and refrain from further provocative and dangerous actions."

He warns that should Putin push forward with military action, it will lead to "ongoing negative consequences" for Canada-Russia relations.

The special cabinet meeting was called after Russian parliament gave Putin the green light on Saturday to use the country's military in Ukraine. Russian armed forces have seized control of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

Canadian cabinet ministers met by phone and in person well into the evening on Saturday, agreeing to join the United States and the United Kingdom in issuing strongly worded condemnations of the Russian actions and taking concrete steps to show they mean business.

"We join our allies in condemning in the strongest terms President Putin's military intervention in Ukraine. These actions are a clear violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. They are also in violation of Russia's obligations under international law," Harper stated.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Harper spoke by telephone about the troubling events in Ukraine earlier Saturday. The two leaders agreed to "co-ordinate closely."

Obama personally delivered the same message as Harper's during a 90-minute telephone conversation with Putin, the White House said late Saturday. He not only urged Putin to pull his forces back to Russian bases in Crimea, but also to refrain from interfering elsewhere in the former Soviet republic.

The Kremlin said Putin, meantime, told Obama that Russian citizens living in Ukraine are in danger and that Russia has the right to protect them.

"Vladimir Putin emphasized that, in the case of a further spread in violence in eastern regions (of Ukraine) and Crimea, Russia maintains the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking population that lives there," the Kremlin said in a statement.

Political turmoil in Ukraine pushed President Viktor Yanukovych from office following massive pro-democracy protests after he rejected a partnership agreement with the European Union in favour of deepening his country's historical ties with Moscow.

Yanukovych held a news conference in southern Russia on Friday in which he said he was not asking Moscow for military assistance and called military action "unacceptable."

Yanukovych, who still considers himself Ukraine's president, also vowed to "keep fighting for the future of Ukraine" and blamed the U.S. and the West for encouraging the rebellion that forced him to flee last weekend.

Ukraine's acting president, meantime, Oleksandr V. Turchynov, said at a briefing in Kyiv that he had ordered Ukraine’s armed forces "to full combat readiness." Ukrainian soldiers have also reportedly been ordered to open fire if attacked by Russian troops or others.

Canada will boycott meetings leading up to the G8 summit planned for Sochi later this year, Harper said Saturday. The G8 host changes every year, and 2014 is Russia's turn. The G8 host normally holds several planning meetings among finance ministers, foreign ministers and other top officials.

However, Canadian athletes will still compete in the upcoming Paralympics in Sochi, the Prime Minister's Office said late Saturday. The games are set for March 7 to 16th.

Harper said Canada supports the United Nations sending international monitors to Ukraine and is also involved in multilateral talks to put together a financial aid package for the beleaguered country.

"We will continue to cooperate closely with our G7 partners and other allies. Should President Putin continue on this course of action, it will lead to ongoing negative consequences for our bilateral relationship," Harper stated.

In Canada, the federal NDP said it was deeply worried about the tension in Ukraine.

"We are monitoring events closely and with great concern. We urge the Canadian government to continue to work alongside our allies towards a peaceful resolution of this troubling situation," spokesman Marc-Andre Viau said in an email.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, meanwhile, is advising against travel to the region and says Canadians already there should consider leaving "while it is safe to do so."

Foreign Affairs says its advisory is due to "political uncertainty" and reports of armed groups operating in the area, along with protests and public clashes.

Harper's statement comes as a day after Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and a Canadian delegation visited Kyiv to show support for the new government.

But Canada did not officially recognize the legitimacy of that government until Harper's statement on Saturday night.

Serhy Yekelchyk, a professor of Slavic studies at the University of Victoria, praised Ottawa's response as "strong" and "timely" but said it might not be enough.

"I think Canada can go further, especially given the special connection we have to Ukraine, with 1.2 million Canadians being of Ukrainian background," he said in an interview.

"If this doesn't work, there will be an issue of further sanctions," such as excluding Russia from future G8 meetings, he said.

"Because if this goes unchecked, it is very easy to see Putin interfering with other former Soviet republics."

--

With files from The Associated Press

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    A young anti government protester tapes off an entrance to the Independence square in central Kiev on February 28, 2014. Ukraine accused Russia of staging an 'armed invasion' of Crimea on Friday as the ex-Soviet state's ousted leader prepared to emerge defiant from five days of hiding after winning protection from Moscow. AFP PHOTO/ LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

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    Anti government protesters prepare to close the entrances to the Independence square in central Kiev on February 28, 2014. Ukraine accused Russia of staging an 'armed invasion' of Crimea on Friday as the ex-Soviet state's ousted leader prepared to emerge defiant from five days of hiding after winning protection from Moscow. AFP PHOTO/ LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

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    SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 28: One of approximately 20 soldiers, who were wearing no identifying insignia and declined to say whether they were Russian or Ukrainian, patrols outside the Simferopol International Airport as a pro-Russian man wearing the Ribbon of St. George, a symbol of Russiam military valour, uses a mobile phone on February 28, 2014 near Simferopol, Ukraine. According to media reports Russian soldiers have occupied the airport at nearby Sevastapol in a move that is raising tensions between Russia and the new Kiev government. Crimea has a majority Russian population and pro-Russian men have occupied government buildings in Simferopol. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

  • UKRAINE-POLITICS-UNREST

    An anti government protester guards an entrance to the Independence square in central Kiev on February 28, 2014. Ukraine accused Russia of staging an 'armed invasion' of Crimea on Friday as the ex-Soviet state's ousted leader prepared to emerge defiant from five days of hiding after winning protection from Moscow. AFP PHOTO/ LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • UKRAINE-POLITICS-UNREST

    A view taken on February 28, 2014 shows the protesters camp at the Independence square in central Kiev. Ukraine accused Russia of staging an 'armed invasion' of Crimea on Friday as the ex-Soviet state's ousted leader prepared to emerge defiant from five days of hiding after winning protection from Moscow. AFP PHOTO/ LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Concerns Grow In Ukraine Over Pro Russian Demonstrations In The Crimea Region

    SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 28: Soldiers, who were wearing no identifying insignia and declined to say whether they were Russian or Ukrainian, patrol outside the Simferopol International Airport as a pro-Russian man who was among a group occupying a portion of the airport grounds, stands by on February 28, 2014 near Simferopol, Ukraine. According to media reports Russian soldiers have occupied the airport at nearby Sevastapol in a move that is raising tensions between Russia and the new Kiev government. Crimea has a majority Russian population and pro-Russian men have occupied government buildings in Simferopol. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

  • Concerns Grow In Ukraine Over Pro Russian Demonstrations In The Crimea Region

    SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 28: A soldier, one of approximately 20 who were wearing no identifying insignia and declined to say whether they were Russian or Ukrainian, patrols outside the Simferopol International Airport after a pro-Russian crowd had gathered on February 28, 2014 near Simferopol, Ukraine. According to media reports Russian soldiers have occupied the airport at nearby Sevastapol in a move that is raising tensions between Russia and the new Kiev government. Crimea has a majority Russian population and pro-Russian men have occupied government buildings in Simferopol. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

  • Concerns Grow In Ukraine Over Pro Russian Demonstrations In The Crimea Region

    SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 28: Soldiers, who were wearing no identifying insignia and declined to say whether they were Russian or Ukrainian, patrol outside the Simferopol International Airport as a pro-Russian man wearing the Ribbon of St. George, a symbol of Russiam military valour, stands nearby on February 28, 2014 near Simferopol, Ukraine. According to media reports Russian soldiers have occupied the airport at nearby Sevastapol in a move that is raising tensions between Russia and the new Kiev government. Crimea has a majority Russian population and pro-Russian men have occupied government buildings in Simferopol. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

  • Concerns Grow In Ukraine Over Pro Russian Demonstrations In The Crimea Region

    SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 28: A policeman stands guard outside the Crimea parliament building barricaded by pro-Russian crowds as a hand-painted sign that reads: 'Crimea Russia' lies beside a flag on February 28, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine. The ad before parliamentarians agreed on a referendum over Cromiea's status to be held on May 25 and also ousted Crimean Prime Minister Anatoly Mogilev, replacing him with Sergey Aksyonov of the regional Russian Unity Party. Tensions are rising in Crimea following the consolidation of power by the Ukrainian opposition in Kiev and Russian armed forces stationed near the Ukrainian broder are on alert. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

  • Concerns Grow In Ukraine Over Pro Russian Demonstrations In The Crimea Region

    SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 28: A policeman stands guard outside the Crimea parliament building barricaded by pro-Russian crowds on February 28, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine. The ad before parliamentarians agreed on a referendum over Cromiea's status to be held on May 25 and also ousted Crimean Prime Minister Anatoly Mogilev, replacing him with Sergey Aksyonov of the regional Russian Unity Party. Tensions are rising in Crimea following the consolidation of power by the Ukrainian opposition in Kiev and Russian armed forces stationed near the Ukrainian broder are on alert. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

  • Concerns Grow In Ukraine Over Pro Russian Demonstrations In The Crimea Region

    SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 28: Soldiers, who were wearing no identifying insignia and declined to say whether they were Russian or Ukrainian, patrol outside the Simferopol International Airport as pro-Russian men wearing the Ribbon of St. George, a symbol of Russiam military valour, direct traffic on February 28, 2014 near Simferopol, Ukraine. According to media reports Russian soldiers have occupied the airport at nearby Sevastapol in a move that is raising tensions between Russia and the new Kiev government. Crimea has a majority Russian population and pro-Russian men have occupied government buildings in Simferopol. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

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    Unidentified armed men patrol outside of Simferopol airport, on February 28, 2014. Ukraine accused today Russia of staging an 'armed invasion' of Crimea and appealed to the West to guarantee its territorial integrity after pro-Moscow gunmen took control of the peninsula's main airport.AFP PHOTO / VIKTOR DRACHEV (Photo credit should read VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Concerns Grow In Ukraine Over Pro Russian Demonstrations In The Crimea Region

    SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 28: Policemen stand guard outside the Crimea parliament building barricaded by pro-Russian crowds on February 28, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine. The day before parliamentarians agreed on a referendum over Cromiea's status to be held on May 25 and also ousted Crimean Prime Minister Anatoly Mogilev, replacing him with Sergey Aksyonov of the regional Russian Unity Party. Tensions are rising in Crimea following the consolidation of power by the Ukrainian opposition in Kiev and Russian armed forces stationed near the Ukrainian broder are on alert. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

  • Concerns Grow In Ukraine Over Pro Russian Demonstrations In The Crimea Region

    SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 28: A hand-painted sign that reads: 'Crimea Russia' lies beside a flag on a barricade outside the Crimea parliament building on February 28, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine. The day before parliamentarians agreed on a referendum over Cromiea's status to be held on May 25 and also ousted Crimean Prime Minister Anatoly Mogilev, replacing him with Sergey Aksyonov of the regional Russian Unity Party. Tensions are rising in Crimea following the consolidation of power by the Ukrainian opposition in Kiev and Russian armed forces stationed near the Ukrainian broder are on alert. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

  • Concerns Grow In Ukraine Over Pro Russian Demonstrations In The Crimea Region

    SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 28: Soldiers, who were wearing no identifying insignia and declined to say whether they were Russian or Ukrainian, patrol outside the Simferopol International Airport after a pro-Russian crowd had gathered on February 28, 2014 near Simferopol, Ukraine. According to media reports Russian soldiers have occupied the airport at nearby Sevastapol in a move that is raising tensions between Russia and the new Kiev government. Crimea has a majority Russian population and pro-Russian men have occupied government buildings in Simferopol. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

  • Concerns Grow In Ukraine Over Pro Russian Demonstrations In The Crimea Region

    SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 28: Soldiers, who were wearing no identifying insignia and declined to say whether they were Russian or Ukrainian, patrol outside the Simferopol International Airport after a pro-Russian crowd had gathered on February 28, 2014 near Simferopol, Ukraine. According to media reports Russian soldiers have occupied the airport at nearby Sevastapol in a move that is raising tensions between Russia and the new Kiev government. Crimea has a majority Russian population and pro-Russian men have occupied government buildings in Simferopol. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

  • Concerns Grow In Ukraine Over Pro Russian Demonstrations In The Crimea Region

    SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 28: Soldiers, who were wearing no identifying insignia and declined to say whether they were Russian or Ukrainian, patrol outside the Simferopol International Airport after a pro-Russian crowd had gathered on February 28, 2014 near Simferopol, Ukraine. According to media reports Russian soldiers have occupied the airport at nearby Sevastapol in a move that is raising tensions between Russia and the new Kiev government. Crimea has a majority Russian population and pro-Russian men have occupied government buildings in Simferopol. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

  • Concerns Grow In Ukraine Over Pro Russian Demonstrations In The Crimea Region

    SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 28: Soldiers, who were wearing no identifying insignia and declined to say whether they were Russian or Ukrainian, patrol outside the Simferopol International Airport as pro-Russian men wearing the Ribbon of St. George, a symbol of Russiam military valour, stand nearby on February 28, 2014 near Simferopol, Ukraine. According to media reports Russian soldiers have occupied the airport at nearby Sevastapol in a move that is raising tensions between Russia and the new Kiev government. Crimea has a majority Russian population and pro-Russian men have occupied government buildings in Simferopol. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

  • UKRAINE-RUSSIA-UNREST-POLITICS-CRIMEA

    Unidentified armed men patrol outside of Simferopol airport, on February 28, 2014. Ukraine accused today Russia of staging an 'armed invasion' of Crimea and appealed to the West to guarantee its territorial integrity after pro-Moscow gunmen took control of the peninsula's main airport.AFP PHOTO / VIKTOR DRACHEV (Photo credit should read VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images)

  • UKRAINE-RUSSIA-UNREST-POLITICS-CRIMEA

    Unidentified armed men patrol outside of Simferopol airport, on February 28, 2014. Ukraine accused today Russia of staging an 'armed invasion' of Crimea and appealed to the West to guarantee its territorial integrity after pro-Moscow gunmen took control of the peninsula's main airport.AFP PHOTO / VIKTOR DRACHEV (Photo credit should read VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Concerns Grow In Ukraine Over Pro Russian Demonstrations In The Crimea Region

    SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 28: Soldiers, who were wearing no identifying insignia and declined to say whether they were Russian or Ukrainian, patrol outside the Simferopol International Airport after a pro-Russian crowd had gathered on February 28, 2014 near Simferopol, Ukraine. According to media reports Russian soldiers have occupied the airport at nearby Sevastapol in a move that is raising tensions between Russia and the new Kiev government. Crimea has a majority Russian population and pro-Russian men have occupied government buildings in Simferopol. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

  • Concerns Grow In Ukraine Over Pro Russian Demonstrations In The Crimea Region

    SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 28: A soldier, one of approximately 20 who were wearing no identifying insignia and declined to say whether they were Russian or Ukrainian, patrols outside the Simferopol International Airport after a pro-Russian crowd had gathered on February 28, 2014 near Simferopol, Ukraine. According to media reports Russian soldiers have occupied the airport at nearby Sevastapol in a move that is raising tensions between Russia and the new Kiev government. Crimea has a majority Russian population and pro-Russian men have occupied government buildings in Simferopol. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

  • UKRAINE-RUSSIA-UNREST-POLITICS-CRIMEA

    Unidentified armed men patrol outside of Simferopol airport, on February 28, 2014. Ukraine accused today Russia of staging an 'armed invasion' of Crimea and appealed to the West to guarantee its territorial integrity after pro-Moscow gunmen took control of the peninsula's main airport.AFP PHOTO / VIKTOR DRACHEV (Photo credit should read VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Concerns Grow In Ukraine Over Pro Russian Demonstrations In The Crimea Region

    SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 28: Soldiers, who were wearing no identifying insignia and declined to say whether they were Russian or Ukrainian, patrol outside the Simferopol International Airport after a pro-Russian crowd had gathered on February 28, 2014 near Simferopol, Ukraine. According to media reports Russian soldiers have occupied the airport at nearby Sevastapol in a move that is raising tensions between Russia and the new Kiev government. Crimea has a majority Russian population and pro-Russian men have occupied government buildings in Simferopol. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)