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Canada's Ukraine Commitment: An Examination

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced during his second surprise visit to Kyiv that his nation would send additional $500 million CAD ($375 million USD) in military aid for Ukraine. The announcement comes in the face of escalating tensions with Russia and a reportedly ongoing offensive by Ukrainian forces along almost the entire frontline.

He affirmed that the people of Ukraine "can count on the fact that Canada will continue its political, financial, humanitarian, and military support as long as necessary." "We will be there with [you] as much as it takes, for as long as it takes," he added, speaking to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky directly.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo Credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters.

He also reiterated the plan to train Ukrainian pilots on the F-16 fighter airframe. Canada also will supply 287 additional air defense missiles to the Ukrainian military and 10,000 155mm artillery munitions, the prime minister said.

This comes after authorities in Ottawa announced the seizure of a Russian-registered Antonov-124 cargo plane that landed at Toronto's airport. The plane, a massive Soviet-era strategic airlift four-engine aircraft, will be donated to Ukraine to assist with military logistics, according to Canada's Foreign Minister, Melanie Joly.

A Russian-registered Antonov An-124 aircraft, operated by cargo carrier Volga-Dnepr, is parked at Toronto Pearson International Airport as seen in April. Photo Credit: Carlos Osorio/Reuters

"The seizure of this important asset is the first step of the Government of Canada’s action under the asset seizure and forfeiture regime and is designed to put additional pressure on Russia to stop its illegal war against Ukraine by straining its economic system and limiting resources that fuel the war," the Canadian government announced in an official statement.

Russian Ambassador to Ottawa Oleg Stepanov heavily criticized the move by Ottawa, calling it "absolutely illegal. It is theft. It is robbery. The Trudeau regime has shown that there is no rule of law in Canada."

According to Russian state-owned media, the aircraft was carrying vaccines from China and was in Canada prior to the restrictions. The crew of the cargo plane had reportedly already been flown back to Russia. "An An-124 Ruslan cargo aircraft, owned by Russia’s Volga-Dnepr Airlines and chartered by the Canadian government, arrived in Toronto on February 27, 2022, carrying a cargo of Covid tests from China. The aircraft had landed two hours before Canada closed its airspace to Russian aircraft over the Ukraine crisis," state-owned TASS reported.

Canadian 'Bison' APCs during training operations. Photo Credit; General Dynamic Land Systems Canada

Canada, one of the longest-serving NATO members and with one of the largest Ukrainian diasporas, has been one of Ukraine's staunchest supports diplomatically and materially. Ottawa has sent over $8 billion in direct financial, military, humanitarian, and other assistance including tanks, armored vehicles, air defense systems and munitions, and small arms.

Canada's support packages has consisted of;

  • 4 Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks

  • A National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) worth $400 million CAD

  • 200 Roshel Senator armored vehicles

  • 4 M777 155mm howitzers

  • 39 upgraded Bison armored personnel carriers

  • Access to Canada's RADARSAT-2 for satellite imagery and intelligence

  • 7500 M67 hand grenades, 4500 M72 rocket launchers, 100 Carl Gustav M2 recoilless rifles, and over $7 million CAD of small arms including light and medium machine guns, pistols, carbines, and sniper rifles.

"Machine guns, assault rifles, cleaning kits, and magazines have already been delivered to Ukraine, and 1 million rounds of 5.56mm ammunition and 4,800 assault rifles are scheduled to be delivered in the coming weeks. All 21,000 small arms and 2.4 million rounds of ammunition are expected to be in Ukraine by the summer," the Canadian Ministry of Defense announced on May 25th.

Canadian troops training Ukrainian soldiers as a part of Operation UNIFIER. Photo Credit; Canadian Armed Forces/Corporal Marco Tijam

In addition to material support, Canada's Operation UNIFIER has been ongoing albeit outside the country. The operation, part of a larger NATO-backed training mission that was once taking place inside Ukraine, now continues outside the country in Poland, the United Kingdom, and Latvia. Paired with Latvian military officials, Canadian troops have graduated 2,400 members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in "battlefield tactics and advanced military skills" since the February 2022 invasion, according to Ottawa.

Cover Photo Credit: REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/Pool

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