Ukraine discussions trump Stephen Harper's visit to Warsaw

Prime Minister Stephen Harper spent much of Tuesday about Ukraine with Polish leaders in Warsaw, as his European trip continues.

Polish PM reveals Harper's unannounced trip to Canadian frigate in the Baltic Sea

Prime Minister Stephen Harper shakes hands with Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz at a joint news statement in Warsaw on Tuesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper spent much of Tuesday talking about Ukraine with Polish leaders in Warsaw, as his European trip continues.

Harper met with Polish Prime Minister Eva Kopacz and President Bronislaw Komorowski and spoke to reporters in a joint news statement with Kopacz, which mainly focused on defence issues, like Ukraine. Neither took questions from journalists. 

During the statement, Kopacz revealed that Harper would be visiting a Canadian frigate in the port town of Gdańsk on the Baltic Sea. It's home to the HMCS Fredericton, where about 200 Canadians are taking part in military exercises.

The visit was unannounced and embargoed to Canadian media before Kopacz revealed it during the statement, breaking the embargo.

Defence Minister Jason Kenney, who is in Europe with Harper, confirmed the visit but wouldn't wade into specifics.

"I'm not going to discuss what exactly we might be doing in the next 24 hours except to say that obviously the prime minister will be visiting one of our frigates that's been on joint training exercises in the Baltic Sea," he told reporters Tuesday.

Both Harper and Kopacz renewed their condemnation of Russian leader Vladimir Putin over Ukraine. 

"The position of Canada and Poland is very much the same, to maintain sanctions and to exert pressure on Russia so that it withdraws from the territory of Ukraine," said Kopacz.

She talked about both Poland and Canada's readiness to support Ukraine and called Canada a "highly valued ally."

Earlier Tuesday, Harper took part in a traditional wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Poland just one leg of Europe trip

Harper arrived from the G7 summit in Germany, where the unrest between Ukraine and Russia was also a hot topic.      

Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes part in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Harper enjoys strong relations with Poland and considers it a major European ally, after forging a bond with Kopacz's predecessor Donald Tusk, who became European Council president last year. 

In Tuesday's joint statement, Harper said he hoped the bond would continue under Kopacz's leadership. 

He also reiterated Canada's "deep and enduring ties" to Poland. 

It's Harper's third trip to Poland. The most recent was just one year ago, when Harper considered increasing Canada's long-term military presence in Eastern Europe.

The current Polish diaspora in Canada is estimated to be around one million.


With files from The Canadian Press


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