By Katherine George
Canada will send 200 troops to Ukraine to contribute to military training for the next two years, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Tuesday.
Defence Minister Jason Kenney and Gen. Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff, joined Harper at the National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa.
This is the latest move by the Conservative government to assist Ukraine in the fight against last year’s takeover of Crimea by Russian president Vladimir Putin.
“Since January of last year the Government of Canada has delivered enormous support to the government and people of Ukraine to maintain their territorial integrity against this illegal and unjustified aggression against Vladimir Putin,” said Kenney.
The announcement raises the concern of whether Canadian troops will escalate the situation, lead to more confrontation and increase risk of conflict with Russia.
“These Canadian Armed Forces personnel will not be going anywhere remotely close to the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine,” Kenney said at the news conference.
Kenney said the troops will be 1,300 kilometers away from any battle areas.
Troops will be stationed primarily at a NATO centre in Yavoriv, located in western Ukraine close to the Polish border, said Lawson.
As well, some instruction will take place at the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence Demining Centre in Kamyanets-Podilsky, also in western Ukraine.
“Canadian Armed Force personnel will provide training assistance in the fields of individual and unit tactics, military police skills and procedures, explosive coordinators disposal, flight safety training, medical and logistics system modernization,” said Lawson.
Canadian troops are expected to enter Ukraine this summer, joining the U.S. and Britain in efforts to improve the Ukrainian forces, said Kenney.
It is part of the U.S.-Ukraine Joint Commission, which Canada and Britain joined earlier this year, he said.
Canada’s history of helping Ukraine
Ukraine is the only European country to receive Canadian international development assistance, said Kenney.
“We have provided assistance of over 570 million dollars worth of loan guarantees for economic stabilization, humanitarian aid for internally displaced peoples and non-lethal military equipment helping to reduce causalities of Ukrainian troops,” said Kenney.
The timeline below details contributions Canada has made to support Ukraine’s forces.