Nfld. & Labrador

Rick Hillier says Ukraine is struggling for its life and Western countries must do more

Retired Canadian Armed Forces general Rick Hillier says Canada and other Western nations have not done enough to support Ukraine's fight against the Russian invasion. 

Retired general starts fundraising effort to outfit volunteer Ukrainian fighters with equipment

Retired general Rick Hillier says money needs to be raised urgently to help Ukrainians deal with the Russian invasion. (CBC)

Retired Canadian Armed Forces general Rick Hillier says Canada and other Western nations should be doing more to support Ukraine's effort to fight back against the Russian invasion. 

The conflict is stretching into four months with no real indictors of an end in sight. On Monday, Russian forces launched a missile attack on a busy shopping centre in the city of Kremenchuk.

Hillier — a former chief of defence staff —  told CBC News that Ukraine is in a struggle for its life. 

"They don't have the equipment and the means necessary to defend themselves and their courage and their valour notwithstanding, and their sacrifices notwithstanding, they are slowly losing to Russia, and we've seen what the consequences of that are," he said. 

"It just gets really frustrating to watch this occurring and, in my belief, that we in the West are not doing enough to prevent it."

While Western politicians and leaders have been visiting the war-torn country to see the damage caused over the last number of weeks first-hand, promises to arm Ukrainian defence forces have also been going unfulfilled, Hillier said. He said the last he heard from the Ukrainian defence ministry is that less than 10 per cent of what's been promised has been delivered. 

He said it'll take weeks or even months for some promises to be fulfilled, which will be too late, as Ukrainians are deploying with their own civilian equipment and even their own personal vehicles against Russian forces in tanks and armoured vehicles. 

A resident looks out of a broken window of a damaged apartment following recent shelling at the Petrovsky district in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in Donetsk, Ukraine. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

"Russia has clenched the Ukrainian defence forces in a bear hug. They outnumber them in artillery 12 to 1.… They out-range them in artillery so they can sit back and kill them from a distance and that's exactly what they're doing," Hillier said. 

"These are civilians, doctors, mayors, farmers who signed up to defend their families and their villages, and now they find themselves deployed into eastern Ukraine."

'It's just untold layers of challenge and trauma'

Meanwhile, Conception Bay South pastor Fred Penney of the Elim Pentecostal Tabernacle is keeping tabs on friends who remain in Ukraine as part of the ministry.

Part of Penney's work has included teaching overseas. Ukraine is the country he has visited most often during the last 20 years. 

Penney said those who remain behind are seeking refuge in a church run by a close friend in western Ukrainian city of Lviv. He said they need money to keep up the support for those trying to push on to Poland.

"We've been sending a bit of money over there and still feeling kind of helpless in the face of the war," he said. 

"That church is having to find food and shelter and deal with all the emotional trauma, the upset, the children, husbands and wives are separated.… It's just untold layers of challenge and trauma."

Penney said he has personally taken in a family of five who are settling in well in Topsail. He said they arrived May 4. 

Money is what Hillier is trying to collect, too. He's starting an advisory council with other former military leaders in partnership with the Ukrainian World Congress.

LISTEN | Rick Hillier makes the case for heavier western involvement in Ukraine: 
Retired General Rick Hillier believes western nations should be doing more to help Ukraine fight Russia.

The Unite With Ukraine council's goal is to drum up support through public appeal and corporate donations. They need about $250 million US in order to equip 100,000 Ukrainian volunteer fighters with the basics.

Hillier calls the equipment a "life and death" situation.

"They have no equipment whatsoever. We want to raise money to buy helmets, protective goggles, flak vests with steel plates, medical kits, tourniquets, knee pads, boots so maybe they'll have a little bit of probability of survival that is increased when they go into combat," said Hillier. 

"We want to raise money and equip those sons and daughters of Ukraine so that they can defend their own families. They'll do the job if they had the equipment, they just don't have the equipment right now."

In a statement to CBC News, the Department of National Defence said the federal government has committed $274 million in military equipment donations and purchases for Ukraine since February.

Most recently, the statement said, Ottawa provided a $9-million military aid donation to Ukraine that "complements previous heavy artillery donations and Canadian Armed Forces' training of Ukrainian forces in the use of this equipment."

"We continue to actively look at what we can donate from our existing stocks, in close co-ordination with Ukraine and NATO allies, while ensuring we are maintaining our own operational readiness," the department said.

"What we donate must also satisfy a specific need, must be useful as part of the wider collective of donations from our partner nations, and must be something the Ukrainians are trained to use and have the resources and capabilities to maintain. As the chief of the defence staff has said, it is important to ensure donations do not increase the burden on Ukrainian forces."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Moore

Journalist

Mike Moore is a journalist who works with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.

With files from Newfoundland Morning

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