Defence Minister Anita Anand says Canada remains open to enhancing military aid to Ukraine amid rising tensions with Russia, a message she will convey to her Ukrainian counterpart during an upcoming trip to the country.
In an interview on CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday, Anand said the greatest contribution Canada can provide to Ukraine at this time is human resources, touting the government’s announcement last week to extend and expand Operation UNIFIER.
“We have trained over 30,000 Ukrainian soldiers and our training in Ukraine has been universally recognized as important, especially among our NATO allies, to the stability and security of Ukraine,” she said.
“So in terms of further aid, we put on the table non lethal weapons [last] week, we put on the table $120 million for economic stability the week before and we will continue to raise all options when I am meeting with Minister [Reznikov] in the coming days.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last Wednesday a three-year extension of the military operation, which was scheduled to expire in March 2022. The government said 60 more Canadian troops, on top of the 200 already stationed there, will be deployed in the coming days.
The operation’s focus is to assist with security force training.
The commitment also includes a shipment of non-lethal equipment, intelligence sharing, and support to combat cyberattacks in response to escalating tensions at the western Ukraine border where more than 100,000 Russian troops have amassed, prompting concerns of an imminent invasion.
Ukraine has asked Canada for lethal weapons, among other requests, as a form of deterrence of a Russian attack.
Andrii Bukvych, charge d’affaires at the Ukrainian Embassy to Canada, welcomed the government’s Wednesday announcement but pointed to a recent Abacus Data poll that shows a majority of Canadians are in favour or sending weapons to Ukraine.
“We are looking forward to see the next strong steps in Canada before the Russian boots step on the Ukrainian ground,” the statement reads.
Asked whether Canada would consider redirecting million of dollars worth of military equipment originally intended for Kurdish forces in Iraq to Ukraine, Anand reiterated that all options remain on the table.
“We will continue to consider all options going forward. This is the reason I am travelling to Ukraine, to lay out our support for Ukraine and to ensure they know that we remain steadfast in our support in this time of unwarranted Russian aggression at their border,” she said.
Russia continues to deny claims of an imminent invasion and states that troops are simply performing routine military exercises.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CTV News Channel’s Power Play last Friday that should Russia encroach further, allies will be prepared to impose “severe sanctions.”
“There will be a high price to pay for Russia. Economic, diplomatic, financial sanctions that are agreed [upon] among NATO allies,” he said, adding that Ukraine will be prepared to defend itself.
“Ukraine has of course a right to self defence, this is enshrined in the UN charter and therefore we are helping them in different ways to uphold that right to self defence.”
In addition to visiting Ukraine, Anand will travel to Latvia to meet with Canadian troops stationed there.