Ukraine peacekeeping exercise to include 13 Canadian soldiers
Prime Minister announces $4M in support for Ukraine, NATO response to Russia
Canada will provide up to $4 million for two initiatives to help Ukraine and Canada's NATO allies counter the threat posed by Russian militarism in the region, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced today at the NATO summit in Wales.
Canada will contribute $1 million through the NATO Trust Funds to help build up Ukrainian command and control and communications capabilities and improve personnel management systems and standardization within its armed forces.
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As well, the three NATO Centres of Excellence in the Baltic region — Cyber Security, Energy Security and Strategic Communications — will each receive up to $1 million "to help the Baltic states strengthen the regional framework for addressing the crisis," according to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office.
Both initiatives will be funded through the Canadian government's Global Peace and Security Fund, which supports reconstruction efforts in fragile states or areas of conflict.
The announcement comes amid news that Canada will send 13 soldiers to Ukraine as part of an annual U.S.-led peacekeeping exercise that begins next week.
The exercise, called Rapid Trident 14, will be held at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center in Yavoriv, Ukraine, from Sept. 11 to 28, the Prime Minister's Office said.
Although a regular event, the announcement of Canadian participation this year comes as NATO leaders, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, meet in Wales to discuss responses to Russian actions in Ukraine and the continuing standoff between them.
As well, a statement from Defence Minister Rob Nicholson's office confirmed a Canadian frigate will head to the Black Sea Satruday to join a NATO military exercise there next week.
HMCS Toronto, which is currently deployed with the Standing NATO Maritime Forces in the Mediterranean Sea as part of the pro-Ukraine Operation Reassurance, will lead a "task unit" of ships from Spain, Romania and the U.S. as well as naval vessels from Bulgaria, Georgia, Turkey and Ukraine, and will stay on in the Black Sea until Sept. 27, the statement said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed Russia's opposition Thursday to Ukraine joining NATO as the alliance gathered for its summit.
The Pentagon said yesterday 200 U.S. soldiers will participate in the peacekeeping exercise. It would be the first presence of U.S. ground troops in Ukraine since the crisis with Russian-backed separatists began.
A Pentagon spokesman said the exercise will include convoy operations, patrolling and methods of countering improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
Countries participating in the peacekeeping exercise this month also include Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Spain, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, the PMO said.
About 1,200 soldiers will be involved.
With files from The Associated Press