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Canada to donate 800 drones to Ukraine: Blair

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Canada will donate more than 800 drones to Ukraine as part of an additional aid package to the country, Defence Minister Bill Blair announced on Monday.

The drones, worth an estimated $95 million, are paid for by the $500 million package unveiled by the prime minister during his visit to Kyiv last June. Since February, 2022, Canada has spent $9.7 billion supporting Ukraine, including $2.4 billion on military aid.

The donation “ensures that Ukraine has the drones it needs to detect and identify targets which are critical” to its defence against Russia’s ongoing military effort, Blair said in a media release. “Canada will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

The SkyRanger R70 drones are made in Canada and sourced from Teledyne, a Waterloo, Ont.-based company. They can carry “various camera systems and payloads to detect and identify targets,” reads the release.

The quad-propeller aircraft are short of a metre wide, and they’re said to be able to carry up to 3.5 kilograms. The release says the drones will help Ukrainian forces locate individuals and vehicles from far away.

Blair also said he wants to increase Canada’s production of military goods, adding, “Production is defence.” Canada is expected to deliver the SkyRanger drones by early April.

“The only response to a tyrant like Vladimir Putin is strength and resilience,” said Blair. “We will not forget Ukraine. We will never abandon Ukraine … until it wins this war.”

A SkyRanger R70 drone is seen in this handout image from Teledyne FLIR Defense, the company responsible for manufacturing it. The Canadian government is spending $95 million to send 800 of them to Ukraine by the spring.

Two years of war 

Feb. 24 will mark two years since the war began. A recent UN report, published in mid-January, suggests more than 10,000 civilians had died so far – including hundreds of children – and over 19,000 were wounded.

Civilian casualties had slowly trended downward since July. However, in December, the UN reported 592 people had died, up from 468 in November.

On Jan. 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country would “intensify” strikes after releasing a swarm of 90 Shahed-type drones in the early hours of the New Year, The Associated Press (AP) reported. He insisted Russia would only target military infrastructure.

In the days prior, 21 people were killed, and over 100 were wounded during shelling in the Russian border city of Belgorod. Authorities blamed Ukraine for the attack, and Russia’s defence ministry wrote in a statement that “this crime will not go unpunished.”

In a Russian attack earlier this month, the Ukrainian air force said it shot down 40 Iranian-made Shahed drones over nine different regions, including on the outskirts of Kyiv, according to AP. The outlet reported the five-and-a-half-hour attack targeted agricultural facilities and coastal infrastructure, citing Telegram messages from Ukraine's southern defence forces.

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