Ukraine to get $220M in financial support from Canada

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced on Thursday that Canada will provide Ukraine with $220 million in financial support "to promote sustainable economic growth, democratic development, and good governance."

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announces aid at Ottawa news conference

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird speaks about the situation in Ukraine during a news conference on Parliament Hill Thursday March 13, 2014 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

With the threat of a Russian-imposed referendum on the fate of Ukraine's Crimea region days away, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced Canada will provide Ukraine with $220 million in an international effort to restore economic stability to the country.

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper is announcing $220 million in additional measures to promote sustainable economic growth, democratic development, and good governance," Baird said during a news conference in Ottawa on Thursday.

The Canadian government deems the referendum an "illegitimate stunt" and will not recognize Sunday's referendum results, Baird said.

"We condemned and continue to condemn in the strongest of terms Russia's provocative and illegal military occupation of Crimea."

The majority of Canada's financial support, $200 million, will be conditional on the establishment of a broader package by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The other $20 million will be implemented by the IMF to ensure the government of Ukraine receives the expert guidance it needs to manage its economic transition.

Canada will also provide $900,000 to have the IMF provide Ukraine with the technical assistance it needs to strengthen its national bank.

Baird said although Ukraine appears to have enough money to stay afloat for a few more months, Canada wants to do everything it can to help stabilize its finances.

Canada has expressed its disapproval of the repression in Ukraine by freezing the assets of 18 members of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych's former regime, members of their families and close associates.

It is providing medical care – including supplies, first-aid kits and training – for Ukrainian activists through a contribution to a Ukrainian non-governmental organization.

Canada continues to advise against travel to Crimea, telling Canadians who are already there to "consider leaving while it is safe to do so."

Yatsenyuk asks Russia to pull back military

Speaking to the UN Security Council in New York moments before Baird's announcement, Ukraine's interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called on Russia to pull back its military forces and engage in negotiations instead.

"We urge the Russian Federation to pull back its military forces deployed in Crimea to barracks and to start real talks and negotiations."

Baird said he took part in a phone call this morning, organized by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, where they discussed "these aggressive acts by Russia, which flagrantly violate Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

"There is no justification, no legality to this referendum that is taking place," Kerry said during a congressional hearing earlier today.

"It violates international law, it violates the UN charter, it violates the constitution of Ukraine."

He warned Russia that the U.S. and the European Union will respond on Monday with a "serious series of steps" should Russia go through with the referendum on Sunday.

Kerry is due to meet his Russian counterpart in London on Friday.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper joined G7 leaders in calling on Russia to halt a referendum in Ukraine's Crimea region.

"All of the G7 countries remain collectively strongly committed to the view that we will not accept Russia's illegal occupation of Crimea," Harper said in B.C., where he stopped on his way back from South Korea on Wednesday.

The G7 group, which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, said in a formal statement that a Russian-backed referendum would hold no legal weight.

"We call on the Russian Federation to immediately halt actions supporting a referendum on the territory of Crimea regarding its status, in direct violation of the constitution of Ukraine," the statement said.

"Any such referendum would have no legal effect. Given the lack of adequate preparation and the intimidating presence of Russian troops, it would also be a deeply flawed process which would have no moral force. For all these reasons, we would not recognize the outcome."