Canada prepping more aid as Ukraine war enters what former U.S. defence secretary calls 'critical' phase

International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan says Canada is looking at more ways to help humanitarian crisis in eastern Europe as about 100 troops deploy to Poland to help with refugees fleeing war in Ukraine.

Around 100 troops from Canada are deploying to Poland to help with refugee crisis

A young Ukrainian refugee arrives on a train from Odesa at Przemysl Glowny train station in Poland on April 9 after fleeing the Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan says Canada is looking at more ways to help humanitarian crisis in eastern Europe as about 100 troops deploy to Poland to help with refugees fleeing war in Ukraine.

"The work that's ongoing is quite vast, but as you know, the needs are also quite vast given the atrocities that are being committed on the ground in Ukraine," said Sajjan in an interview on Rosemary Barton Live that aired Sunday.

  • What questions do you have about Russia's invasion of Ukraine? Send an email to ask@cbc.ca.

Sajjan told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton that Canada was co-ordinating with the United Nations and humanitarian agencies such as the Red Cross to deliver additional aid and materiel in the form of hygiene kits, mattresses and tents.

"We're trying to move as many resources as possible," he said. "The situation — we all know how dire it is, how vast it is."

Around 100 Canadian troops are deploying to Poland to help with the crisis, and Sajjan confirmed one of their main tasks would be to help with refugee processing. Almost five million Ukrainians have fled the country since the start of the war in late February, with the majority headed to neighboring Poland.

WATCH | International development minister on Canadian help for Ukraine: 

What Canadian Forces will be asked to do in Poland

4 months ago
Duration 7:19
Rosemary Barton Lives speaks with Minister of International Development, Harjit Sajjan, on Ottawa's decision to deploy Canadian troops to Poland this week on a humanitarian mission to help support refugees fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Canada has sent both military aid and humanitarian aid during the conflict, and Sajjan addressed the humanitarian situation.

"We have a really large medical hospital that we were ready to deploy. Turns out the full hospital is not needed, but portions of [it] will be," he said, noting where that infrastructure would be sent is being determined now.

Sajjan said Canada was co-ordinating with humanitarian agencies to make sure aid actually gets to where it needs to be. Repeated attempts to establish humanitarian corridors into some of the most dangerous parts of the country — such as the south near the port city of Mariupol — have failed.

"The United Nations and other NGOs are putting their lives at risk to get the supplies through, because the Russians haven't been fully co-operative," Sajjan said.

In a statement released earlier in the week, the Conservative opposition criticized the government's response to the refugee crisis, saying they have been calling for Ukrainians to have long called for visa-free travel to Canada.

"Canada should not have waited until day 50 of the war in Ukraine to bring additional resources to Eastern Europe to help our Ukrainian friends and family fleeing the conflict," said Conservative immigration critic Jasraj Singh Hallan in the statement.

Ukrainians need 'as many weapons as necessary': Panetta

In a separate interview, former U.S. defence secretary Leon Panetta told Barton that the war in Ukraine was now entering a "critical" third phase, where Russia is now focusing its efforts on securing territory in Ukraine's south and east after failing to take Kyiv and then embarking on a destructive campaign.

The focus, Panetta said, should still be for the United States and allies to provide Ukrainians with "as many weapons as necessary" to help them in their fight.

"We've all gained a great deal of confidence in the ability of Ukrainians to fight bravely and courageously and be able to really succeed in defending themselves from a force that without question outnumbered them," he said.

WATCH | Leon Panetta discusses course of war in Ukraine: 

Russia-Ukraine war has reached a 'critical third phase': former U.S. secretary of defense

4 months ago
Duration 8:12
Rosemary Barton Live speaks with former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, about Russia's shifting strategy in its invasion of Ukraine, and why this next phase of the war on the eastern flank is a critical moment.

The former defence secretary, who has also served as CIA director and as chief of staff to former U.S. President Bill Clinton, weighed in on determinations made by current U.S. President Joe Biden and others this week that the Russian actions in Ukraine constituted genocide.

"It really is approaching what I would think is the definition of genocide, which is an effort by Russians to basically wipe out Ukrainians," he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week it was "absolutely right" more people were calling Russia's actions genocide.

Asked how he thought the war in Ukraine could be ended, Panetta said he believed it was important for Ukraine to be able to continue to fight and eventually force a negotiated resolution.

"Putin is a bully, and the only thing he really understands is force."

You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live on CBC Gem, the CBC's streaming service.

With files from Rosemary Barton and Tyler Buist

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