Canada loaning $120M to Ukraine, looking at further actions in face of Russian aggression
Canada will loan the Ukraine government up to $120 million in the face of Russia’s ongoing attempts to destabilize Ukraine, and continues to explore “other” ways to get involved, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday.
“Russia is aiming to destabilize Ukraine, including economically. This loan will help support Ukraine's economic resilience,” Trudeau said. “We're also exploring other options to provide financial and other supports.”
The prime minister said that the federal government is still assessing other requests for assistance from Ukraine, including appeals to extend and expand the Canadian military training mission UNIFIER, provide “defensive weapon and equipment,” and impose “severe” sanctions to raise the cost of any further Russian action.
“We are of course looking to do more, and we will have more to say as the situation unfolds,” Trudeau said.
Canada has also offered Ukraine a “technical assistance grant of up to $6 million to support the implementation of the loan,” with officials in talks about the terms of the sovereign loan and its rollout.
This isn’t the first time Canada has loaned Ukraine money. In 2014 and 2015 a total of $400 million was provided and it was repaid with interest as of 2020, according to the government.
Facing a series of questions from reporters on the developing situation – Trudeau wouldn’t specify what Canada’s line would be for sending further military assistance or weapons, whether an incursion of tanks over the border, or Russian troops entering Kyiv – saying he wouldn’t engage in hypotheticals.
“Any movement of Russian troops into Ukraine will be absolutely unacceptable and met with a clear response from the international community,” he said.
“We have been engaged in significant diplomatic efforts as a global community and been very, very clear that it is not in the interest of Ukrainian people, it's not in the interests of the Russian people, to see a conflict in which Russian and Ukrainian soldiers are killing each other.”
The buildup of thousands of Russian troops at Ukrainian borders and revived concerns over Russian-based cyber attacks and political interference have prompted concerted, daily attention from NATO countries including Canada and the United States, despite claims from Russia that it has no intention of invading.
In a statement released Friday, the Ukrainian Embassy in Canada said that there has been a flurry of visits and bilateral calls and consultations with NATO-member countries in recent days.
When it comes to further armed support, the embassy said the U.K. and U.S. have already shipped military equipment to help equip their Territorial Defence Forces, and they would like to see Canada follow suit.
“We have hundreds of Russian tanks and armoured vehicles deployed along the Ukrainian border and in the occupied parts of Ukraine’s territory. Facing the risk of a further Russian invasion, we need to defend our land,” reads the statement.
Reacting to the latest news, Conservative MP James Bezan, who was among 13 Canadian politicians banned from Russia in 2014, called on the federal Liberals to be decisive on Ukraine’s other requests for assistance.
"Today, Justin Trudeau failed to announce lethal defensive weapons for Ukraine, the use of Magnitsky sanctions, or RADARSAT imagery. We are facing the prospect of a full invasion of Ukraine by Russia and Justin Trudeau is sitting on the fence,” he said in a statement.
The NDP said Friday they are in support of Canada offering Ukraine the loan, but are calling for the government to keep pressuring Russia to back down, rather than moving to arm Ukrainians.
“This situation will only be resolved with a unified front by increasing sanctions and diplomatic pressure,” said NDP MP Heather McPherson in a statement.
Russia’s Ambassador to Canada Oleg Stepanov said in an interview on CTV News Channel’s Power Play Thursday that the threat of western sanctions in response to a military buildup along the Ukrainian border carries no weight and wouldn’t influence the country’s future actions.
Canada has imposed sanctions on more than 440 individuals and entities related to Russia dating back to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Asked about Stepanov’s comments, Trudeau said that in his view, sanctions on Russia have had an impact.
“We know that the Russian people do not want to see Ukraine invaded, do not want to see deaths in a conflict that should be avoided. That's why we're calling on Russia to deescalate, calling on diplomatic conversations,” Trudeau said.
Senior officials in this country, including International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan, Defence Minister Anita Anand, and Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre, have been co-ordinating on Canada’s response.
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly travelled to Ukraine this week to discuss the situation with her counterpart, and according to the prime minister, the loan was discussed during these talks, before she continued on to meet with French and European Union allies in Paris and Brussels.
Canada has deployed a small group of Canadian special forces to Ukraine, though the government remains tight-lipped about what they are doing on the ground. As well, as part of Operation UNIFIER, Canada has approximately 200 Canadian Armed Forces members conducting training exercises in Ukraine.
With files from CTV News’ Sarah Turnbull