Ukraine to get helmets, vests from Canada to help protect border

Canada will send military equipment to help Ukraine protect its eastern border, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said today at an Ontario air base.

Canadian sanctions have been met with Russian counter-sanction

Canada will send military equipment to help Ukraine protect its eastern border, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said Thursday.

"Ukraine has asked for this and once again we are delivering," Nicholson said at CFB Trenton, a busy air base located a 90-minute drive east of Toronto. 

"[Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s failure to end his support to armed rebel groups constitutes a real threat to international peace and security​."

The equipment includes helmets, ballistic eyewear, protective vests, first-aid kits, tents and sleeping bags, according to a news release from the Prime Minister's Office.

The release says the equipment "will allow Ukrainian security and border authorities to better detect and track the movement of illicit goods and people."

NATO says it fears Russia is poised to invade Ukraine, with 20,000 soldiers positioned along the country's border.

Non-lethal, but no ban on weapons sales

Kirill Kalinin, a spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, said there are no plans to invade Ukraine.

"This is ridiculous," he said in an interview on CBC News Network.

"We've conducted a series of war games since the start of the crisis in Ukraine," he said. "That's more than 700 km away from the Ukrainian conflict zone."

"This conflict in Ukraine is an internal conflict and there is no Russian involvement in this conflict. Period," Kalinin said.

The equipment is "non-lethal," which usually refers to defensive or protective equipment, as opposed to weapons used for attacking.

A background document attached to the news release noted there's nothing stopping Canadians from selling military hardware to people in Ukraine. The EU has just lifted its own ban on the sale of military technology and hardware into Ukraine, the document noted.

"There is currently no ban in place on the sale of military technology and hardware to Ukraine in Canada," the document said.

Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine's ambassador to Canada, thanked the government for the aid.

"Ukrainian foot soldiers are bearing heavy losses and this equipment will be able to save them, to bring more fathers back to their families and their kids and their sons," he said.

"Each and every soldier who will be equipped with protective gears … will feel and understand the support and care of the Canadian brothers in arms. 

Worth up to $5M

Canada is sending military personnel with the equipment, but turning over the equipment to the Ukrainians upon arrival, Nicholson said. The equipment will be delivered over a series of flights on a CC-130J Hercules.

In June, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged $5 million in military aid to Ukraine, including body armour and night vision goggles. Until then, the U.S. had only provided non-lethal forms of aid like clothes, food and radios. Prystaiko said Canada joins the U.S., the Netherlands, Lithuania and other countries in providing assistance, but has provided the most.

Last February, Canada pledged $200,000 in medical aid to Ukraine after months of protests and violent suppression in the country. Canada later pledged $220 million in financial support, conditional on the establishment of a broader package by the International Monetary Fund.

Prystaiko had complained the aid is taking too long to arrive. Canadian officials say they have to ensure the proper checks and balances are in place so the money is spent properly.

The equipment announced Thursday, worth up to $5 million, will be funded through Canada’s Global Peace and Security Fund  according to the news release from the Prime Minister's Office.

With files from The Associated Press