Canada's defence minister in Ukraine amid rising tensions with Russia


Defence Minister Anita Anand arrived in a snowy Kyiv on Sunday amid an increasingly frosty international deadlock over the crisis in Eastern Europe.

Her visit with top Ukrainian officials, promised last week after Canada renewed its military training mission in the embattled country, comes as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged major reinforcements to NATO should an invasion take place.

The western military alliance has been canvassing members and making preparations to bolster defences in nations bordering Ukraine and Belarus, should Moscow opt for military action to end the stalemate, which has seen Russia demanding guarantees of no expansion of NATO membership eastward.

On Saturday, Johnson said the United Kingdom is considering making a major deployment to help strengthen NATO’s eastern flank. Britain leads one of the alliance’s forward battle groups already deployed in Estonia.

Canada leads a multinational battle group based in Latvia, but has not said whether it will reinforce its presence should hostility erupt in Ukraine.

WATCH | Defence minister insists training mission ‘most significant contribution Canada can make’ to Ukraine: 

Defence minister insists training mission ‘most significant contribution Canada can make’ to Ukraine

4 days ago

Duration 10:15

Defence Minister Anita Anand says the extension and expansion of Canada’s military training mission is the “most significant contribution Canada can make” to Ukraine as it stares down a potential Russian invasion. Ukraine is asking Canada to send lethal military equipment. 10:15

The Biden administration in Washington is committed to sending more U.S. troops to eastern Europe, as well.

Officials in the diplomatic community, speaking on background to CBC News late last week, said both Canada and the U.K. remain in close contact with each other over the crisis. 

Separately, Britain is also looking at changing its sanctioning regime to make it more flexible and bring it better in line with what partners, such as Canada, have already.

Johnson is reportedly going to visit eastern Europe next week.

The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week announced a renewal and expansion of the Canadian training military training mission in Ukraine, known as Operation Unifier. It also intends to provide a package of non-lethal military aid, including flak jackets, metal detectors, binoculars and medical kits, among other things.

The Ukraine government had asked for defensive weapons, and while the Canadian government says it has not ruled out the possibility, no arms were part of a shipment of supplies that were slated to leave this weekend. 

Anand’s visit coincided Sunday with a rally in central Kyiv by members of a civil society group which is demanding the Ukrainian government not surrender territory or its ambition for closer ties with Europe. Several hundred people rallied for the purpose of thanking allied nations for their support. 

The activists are opposed to implementing portions of the Minsk peace agreement, which was supposed to end the fighting between Russian-backed proxies and the Ukrainian army in the East.

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