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Canada to contribute $76M to German-led air defence fund for Ukraine

Click to play video: 'Canada announces $76M in aid for Ukraine intended to bolster air defence'
Canada announces $76M in aid for Ukraine intended to bolster air defence
Canada will contribute $76 million to a German-led initiative that aims to quickly source and deliver air defence systems to Ukraine to fend off Russian air attacks, Canada's Defence Minister Bill Blair announced on Friday. Blair made the announcement during a visit from his German counterpart, Boris Pistorius. Berlin launched the initiative last month, citing increased Russian strikes. – May 10, 2024

Canada will contribute $76 million to a German-led initiative to raise funds for air defence systems that will be sent to Ukraine, the Canadian and German defence ministers announced Friday.

Defence Minister Bill Blair and his German counterpart Boris Pistorius signed a letter of intent for the contribution to Germany’s Immediate Action on Air Defence initiative after a joint meeting in Ottawa.

The initiative pools money and resources from international partners to quickly source and deliver air defence systems to the battlefield.

“This investment will help Ukraine defend itself against brutal attacks that have destroyed hospitals, power plants and apartment blocks and have killed thousands of innocent Ukrainians,” Blair told reporters.

A spokesperson for Blair’s office confirmed to Global News the funding comes from the $1.6 billion in Ukraine military aid over five years previously announced in the latest federal budget.

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Pistorius said air defence systems acquired through the German fund are due to be delivered to Ukraine “during the coming weeks.”

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Russia says it’s ready to review ‘serious’ peace proposals with Ukraine

Blair noted it would take several years for Canada to acquire the same air defence systems Germany is purchasing and delivering through its fund.

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He said both he and Pistorius have heard directly from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the Ukrainian army is in “urgent need” of air defence capabilities as Russia escalates its missile attacks on civilian and energy infrastructure.

Canada committed $406 million to purchase a National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS) and missiles from the U.S. more than a year ago, but production delays have hampered the delivery of that system. That’s forced Canada to turn to initiatives like Germany’s and a similar one led by Britain, which Ottawa contributed $33 million to in September.

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“What we have found is that (the procurement of new systems) is taking time, time that perhaps Ukraine may not have,” Blair said.

Blair wouldn’t provide an updated timeline on the delivery of the U.S. system when asked Friday.

Similar delays in the production of artillery also led Canada to partner with the Czech Republic to acquire existing rounds from European stocks that can be sent quickly to Ukraine, at a cost of $53 million. Producing those same munitions domestically would also take years to deliver on, Blair said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in February, on the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion, that Canada was committing just over $3 billion in military and financial aid to Ukraine for 2024. Canada has committed $4 billion in military aid since the war began, and defence officials say most of that aid has been delivered.

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NATO allies have been ramping up their commitments in military aid to Ukraine in recent weeks, particularly after the U.S. approved a new $61-billion supplementary aid package after months of delay.

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In the time it took to get that aid passed, Ukraine has run low on ammunition and missiles while Russia has amassed its own military capabilities, and Moscow’s army has begun retaking some territory in Ukraine’s east.

The U.S., along with the U.K. and other allies, have begun sending long-range missile systems to Ukraine that have the capability of striking within Russian territory. In response, Russia announced this week it would begin practicing deploying tactical nuclear weapons during military drills, once again raising the spectre of escalating the conflict into a nuclear one.

The Biden administration announced a new US$400 million package of military aid for Ukraine on Friday, the third one announced since the supplementary bill was passed.

The package includes High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and rockets for them, as well as munitions for Patriot and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, artillery, anti-aircraft and anti-tank munitions, and an array of armored vehicles, such as Bradley and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.

It will also provide a number of coastal and riverine patrol boats, trailers, demolition munitions, high-speed anti-radiation missiles, protective gear, spare parts and other weapons and equipment.

Zelenskyy had warned Thursday that his country was facing “a really difficult situation” in the east, but said a new supply of U.S. weapons was coming and “we will be able to stop them.”

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—With files from the Associated Press

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