Politics

Canada to send Ukraine lethal military equipment worth $7.8M

The federal government said Monday it will send Ukraine $7.8 million worth of lethal military equipment to bolster its defences ahead of a possible Russia invasion.

Announcement comes just days after Ottawa closed its embassy in Kyiv

A service member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces is seen atop an armoured vehicle during military drills in the Chernihiv region, Ukraine, in a photo released Feb. 12, 2022. (Press service of the Ukrainian Armed Forces/Reuters)

On the eve of an anticipated Russian invasion of Ukraine, Canada's Liberal government has — perhaps somewhat belatedly — decided to ship the embattled eastern European country a handful of lethal weapons.

The announcement of the arms shipment, including machine guns, hand pistols, carbines and ammunition, was tucked into Monday's media availability relating to the declaration of the federal Emergencies Act.

"In light of the seriousness of the situation, and following conversations with our Ukrainian partners, I've approved the provision of $7.8 million worth of lethal equipment and ammunition," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a Monday news conference.

"The intent of this support from Canada and other partners is to deter further Russian aggression."

The government also says it will make a new $500-million loan available to Ukraine after previously announcing a separate $120-million loan in January.

It is unclear when the weapons will be shipped.

Move signals policy shift

Although the Liberal government has been quick to say it has never ruled out sending lethal aid the Ukrainians have requested for months, the decision represents a policy shift.

Up until this point in the crisis, Canada has peferred to send non-lethal equipment, including flak vests, mine detectors and medical kits.

In this image provided by the U.S. Air Force, Airmen from the 436th Aerial Port Squadron load ammunition, weapons and other equipment bound for Ukraine during a foreign military sales mission at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on Jan. 30, 2022. (Senior Airman Stephani Barge/U.S. Air Force/The Associated Press)

In justifying the government's earlier reluctance, Trudeau said Russia was simply looking for an excuse to take military action against Ukraine and suggested that weapons shipment could be seen as a pretext.

Some of Canada's closest NATO allies, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have already shipped hundreds of tonnes of arms, including anti-tank weapons.

Western intelligence agencies have warned that Moscow is expected to take military action as early as Wednesday. 

"We're not seeking confrontation with Russia, but the situation is intensifying rapidly, and we are showing our resolve," Trudeau said in French on Monday.

"It's important for Canadians and the world to know that Canada will continue supporting Ukraine and its independence, integrity, sovereignty — including its right to defend itself."

WATCH | Trudeau outlines more support for the Ukrainian military: 

Trudeau announces more support for Ukraine in response to growing tension in the region

10 months ago
Duration 1:10
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will provide weapons and more financial support to Ukraine in response to the threat of Russian aggression.

The decision came less than 24 hours after it was revealed that Canada had pulled its military trainers out of Ukraine and relocated its embassy operations from Kyiv to Lviv, a city in the far western part of the country, near the Polish border.

The decision by Canada to ship lethal aid was applauded by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

"This is a major policy shift, which puts Canada side by side in a coalition of democracies that are steadfastly supporting the Ukrainian people's right to defend their liberty from Russia's wanton and unprovoked aggression," the group said in a statement.

Situation 'absolutely under control': Ukraine official

Ukrainian officials remained publicly skeptical on Monday that an attack was imminent.

The head of the country's National Security and Defence Council, Okeksiy Danilov, said the government does not expect to see an attack this week.

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the phone in his office in Kyiv on Jan. 11, 2022. Trudeau announced Monday, Feb. 14, that the Canadian government would send Ukraine lethal equipment and ammunition, as well as more money. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/The Associated Press)

"We are fully aware of what is happening today on the territory of our country, we are aware of the risks, but the situation is absolutely under control," Danilov was quoted as saying by local television.

Even still, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged the country could soon face "a great war" and signed a decree declaring Feb. 16, 2022, the "Day of Unity of Ukrainians," according to the country's Interfax news agency.

Russia continues to deny it has plans to invade Ukraine, but it has assembled more than 100,000 troops and marines, as well as an arsenal of sophisticated weapons, on Ukraine's northern and eastern borders and in the Black Sea to the south. Washington has warned that military action could begin as soon as the middle of this week.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that Ukraine be barred from joining NATO and has called for NATO members to cease troop rotations through eastern Europe.

WATCH | Ukraine training citizen soldiers: 

Ukraine training civilian soldiers in case of Russian invasion

10 months ago
Duration 2:07
With a Russian invasion feared to be imminent, Ukraine is training an army of civilian soldiers to bolster its defence.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Murray Brewster

Senior reporter, defence and security

Murray Brewster is senior defence writer for CBC News, based in Ottawa. He has covered the Canadian military and foreign policy from Parliament Hill for over a decade. Among other assignments, he spent a total of 15 months on the ground covering the Afghan war for The Canadian Press. Prior to that, he covered defence issues and politics for CP in Nova Scotia for 11 years and was bureau chief for Standard Broadcast News in Ottawa.

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