WATCH ABOVE: Vassy Kapelos has the details on the plan that will send 200 Canadian troops to the Ukraine. They’ll be deployed in a training role, helping Ukrainian soldiers in their efforts to fight Russian-backed rebels. But, Harper is being accused of acting alone after not consulting with Parliament.
OTTAWA – Canada will send 200 military trainers to Ukraine, joining the U.S. and Britain in an international effort to shore up the eastern European country’s battered and bloodied combat forces.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minister Jason Kenney announced the long-anticipated move Tuesday at National Defence headquarters.
The troops will join American and British soldiers early this summer, and the mission will last until March 31, 2017.
Harper says Canada’s latest military contribution addresses a number of requests from the government of Ukraine, and is being provided to help the country in its efforts to maintain sovereignty, security and stability in the face of Russian aggression.
Most of the Canadian trainers are expected to be housed at an existing NATO training centre located in Yavoriv, in the western portion of the embattled European country, near the Polish border.
However, some instruction will also take place at the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence Demining Centre in Kamyanets-Podilsky, also in western Ukraine.
“Ukrainian forces personnel will benefit from the highest calibre of training from the brave men and women of our own Canadian Armed Forces. Canada will continue working with its allies to ensure a sovereign, unified and secure Ukraine,” Harper said.
The troops will join American and British soldiers early this summer.
The Canadians will offer Ukrainian troops their expertise in countering mines and improvised explosive devices, skills painfully learned during the five-year combat mission in Kandahar.
The new mission could also involve instruction on logistics and military policing, something former defence minister Rob Nicholson hinted at last winter when military planners visited the country to determine how best to help.
The Canadians will be far from where Ukrainian troops are battling pro-Russian separatists in the east.
The U.S. military has deployed 800 troops to train three – possibly four – battalions in western Ukraine and the British recently sent 75 soldiers to give instruction in command procedures, tactical intelligence and battlefield first aid.
Both Washington and Ottawa have been under pressure to ship lethal military aid to President Petro Poroshenko’s government, which has been struggling to hold a shaky ceasefire together with rebels.
The Pentagon delayed the training program for Ukrainian soldiers last month to avoid giving the Kremlin an excuse to scrap the peace deal struck in February.
There have been widespread reports in the last week that Russian-backed separatists are preparing for a spring offensive in the southern region, a sign the conflict could re-ignite.
Russia could very well consider the deployment of NATO trainers as a provocation at a time when it has rattled most of Europe with massive, snap military exercises along its borders involving tens of thousands of troops.
It strikes at the heart of the dilemma faced by Western leaders: how to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin’s slow-motion dismemberment of Ukraine without provoking a major war.