Ukraine's former president calls for NATO no-fly zone, says country is 'fighting for Canada'

Former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko is pleading with Canada and its NATO allies to enforce a no-fly zone above his country as the Russian military intensifies its aerial bombardment.

Defence minister says a no-fly zone would amount to a 'severe escalation'

A Russian Su-30SM jet fighter flies during joint military exercises with the Belarusian Air Force in Belarusian air space on February 14, 2022. (Russian Defence Ministry/Reuters)

Former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko is pleading with Canada and its NATO allies to enforce a no-fly zone above his country as the Russian military intensifies its aerial bombardment.

Poroshenko said a no-fly zone would give the Ukrainian military a better chance to repel the Russian invasion, which ultimately would benefit Europe and the entire West.

"We're fighting for the security in Europe here, fighting for France, for Germany, for Poland, for Spain. And can you imagine, we're here fighting for Canada," Poroshenko said in an interview with CBC's Power & Politics.

Poroshenko spoke from downtown Kyiv alongside members of a Ukrainian battalion just minutes after air raid sirens were sounded.

WATCH | Former Ukrainian president says no-fly zone needed

Former Ukrainian president pleads with NATO to reconsider imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine

2 years ago
Duration 8:48
"Why you can do that in Libya? Why you can do that in many other countries?" asked former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. "This is the war in Europe and Ukraine is fighting not only for our own land. Not only for the freedom. Not only for democracy. Not only for the Western values, but we're fighting for the security of Europe."

The Russian military on Wednesday escalated its use of air and missile strikes against major cities where local military and civilians have mounted a more formidable defence than the Kremlin may have anticipated.

Poroshenko, armed with a handgun and wearing military clothing during his interview, said the enforcement of a no-fly zone "prohibited and protected by NATO" in Ukrainian airspace could shift the course of the war.

That request has not been entertained by various NATO officials because enforcement of a no-fly zone could amount to a direct confrontation between NATO and the Russian military.

"Putting in place a no-fly zone would be a severe escalation on the part of NATO and it is not on the table at the current time," Defence Minister Anita Anand said Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has in recent days pointed to his nation's nuclear arsenal in a bid to deter direct Western intervention in Ukraine.

No-fly zone might have given Putin 'second thoughts'

Ukrainian soldiers have successfully shot down some Russian planes and helicopters during the first week of the conflict. The Ukrainian military accomplished those victories after being armed by NATO members with various anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons.

"If we can do it, why we cannot do it together with NATO?" Poroshenko asked.

The former president also pointed to NATO's enforcement of a no-fly zone above Libya in 2011 during that country's civil war. He asked why a similar measure is not being considered now.

WATCH | Poroshenko says Putin must halt invasion

Former Ukrainian president Poroshenko: 'Mr. Putin, get out of Ukraine'

2 years ago
Duration 9:34
"We already lost more than 700 civilians. Just yesterday it was 16 children. Day before yesterday, 14 children ... this is the price Ukraine paid for the Putin aggression," said former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko of Russia's war on Ukraine.

Retired general Rick Hillier, former commander of the Canadian military, has described a no-fly zone as a necessary response to Russian aggression.

"I know that NATO is a defensive organization but you don't start defence at your front door," Hillier said on Tuesday.

"That no-fly zone … Putin might have had second thoughts before he launched if we had done it."

Strategy against Russia not yet clear, says former commander

In addition to the risk of escalating a conflict with a nuclear superpower, others point to logistical and strategic challenges involved in establishing a no-fly zone.

Steve Day, former commander of Canada's Joint Task Force 2, said that any single member of NATO could veto a decision to implement a no-fly zone outside NATO territory.

He also said the United States has the only air force capable of successfully enforcing a no-fly zone, meaning any such decision would have to come from Washington.

Day said a no-fly zone should not even be considered until NATO members agree on a unified response to the crisis.

WATCH | Former Canadian special forces commander on the risks of a no-fly zone over Ukraine

Should there be a no-fly zone over Ukraine?

2 years ago
Duration 5:21
Reticle Ventures Canada President Steve Day, a former commander of Joint Task Force 2, joins Power & Politics to discuss the prospect of a NATO-enforced no-fly zone over Ukraine, as well as broader military strategy.

"I've yet to hear a strategy about how we're going to support and defend Ukraine," Day told CBC's Power & Politics.

"You've got to be very serious about whether you're going to engage those Russian aircraft or not."

Despite a strong push by Russian forces towards Kyiv in recent days, Day predicted that Moscow's goal of toppling the government will be hard to achieve.

Poroshenko indicated that Ukrainians will keep fighting until the Russian forces withdraw.

"I can tell you that every single town, every single street, every single quarter and every single house would be a Ukrainian fortress and would be hell for the Russian soldiers," he said.