Canada to donate $3M to Ukraine drone production, buy more ammunition

Click to play video: 'Russian missile strike in Ukraine’s Kharkiv injures 6, governor says'
Russian missile strike in Ukraine’s Kharkiv injures 6, governor says
Russian missiles damaged residential buildings and injured six people in Ukraine's Kharkiv, early on Wednesday, Kharkiv Oblast Gov. Oleh Synehubov said on Telegram. The attack damaged three residential buildings, two offices, three non-residential buildings and a gas pipeline in the central district of the city, according to the governor's statement. Plus, the Kremlin said on Wednesday that Russia would further expand its "buffer zone" inside Ukraine if Kyiv takes delivery of longer-range ATACM missiles from the United States that allow it to strike deeper inside Russia – Apr 24, 2024

Canada will donate $3 million to support drone production in Ukraine, officials said Friday as western allies committed billions of dollars in additional aid for Kyiv to fight Russia’s invasion.

Defence Minister Bill Blair said the financial assistance is being made in collaboration with the United Kingdom. It marks the first time Canada, which has already committed to sending hundreds of drones to the warfront, is contributing directly to the Ukrainian defence industry.

Blair also announced a previously announced donation of more than 800 SkyRanger surveillance drones built in Ontario will get a top-up of 100 more drones.

Ottawa will also contribute an additional $13 million for the Czech Republic’s effort to quickly provide ammunition to Ukraine, on top of $40 million already spent on the initiative.

The announcements allocate funding committed last year when the Liberal government pledged $500 million in military support.

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Blair made the announcements alongside allied defence leaders at a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group, a coalition of about 50 countries. The meeting fell on the second anniversary of the group, which U.S. Defence Secretary Austin said Friday has “moved heaven and earth” since April 2022 to source millions of rounds of ammunition, rocket systems, armoured vehicles and even jets to help Ukraine rebuff Russia’s invasion.

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Austin used the occasion to announce the United States’ largest military aid package for Ukraine to date, at a cost of US$6 billion, which will include critically-needed Patriot missiles for Ukraine’s air defence systems.

The package also includes more munitions for the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS, and additional gear to integrate Western air defence launchers, missiles and radars into Ukraine’s existing weaponry, much of which still dates back to the Soviet era. Additionally, it will include High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, as well as Switchblade and Puma drones, counter drone systems and artillery.

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The package comes on the heels of a US$1 billion weapons and equipment package announced Wednesday, hours after U.S. President Joe Biden signed a long-delayed bill that allocates US$61 billion in emergency funding for Ukraine into law.

Those weapons include a variety of ammunition, such as air defence munitions and large amounts of artillery rounds that are much in demand by Ukrainian forces, as well as armoured vehicles and other weapons.

That aid, however, will get to Ukraine quickly because it is being pulled off Pentagon shelves, including in warehouses in Europe. The US$6 billion package comes from longer-term contracts that could take months to arrive in Ukraine.

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Canada has also leaned on European supplies to get ammunition to the warfront quickly, as its own commitment to send domestically-produced bullets and shells will take much longer to deliver on.

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The urgency comes as senior U.S. and Canadian officials have described dire battlefield conditions in Ukraine, as troops run low on munitions and Russian forces make gains.

Gen. C.Q. Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the $1 billion weapons package will have a key benefit.

“There’s some near-term effects,” said Brown, who stood alongside Austin at a Pentagon briefing after the meeting. “Now the Ukrainians don’t necessarily have to ration what they have because they know things are coming out of this package and there will be follow-on packages.”

Blair also used Friday’s defence meeting to provide updates on the deliveries of previously-committed Canadian military donations.

The Ontario-built SkyRanger drones are set to begin deliveries in May, he said, while the first wave of armoured vehicles as well as 10 tactical boats promised to Ukraine should be delivered this summer.

Since Russia’s February 2022 invasion, the U.S. has sent more than $44 billion worth of weapons, maintenance, training and spare parts to Ukraine. Canada has contributed over $4 billion in military aid.

— With files from the Canadian Press and the Associated Press

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