Canada extending military mission in Ukraine to 2019
Canada is officially extending its military training mission in Ukraine until the end of March 2019, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced Monday in Ottawa.
“The purpose of the UNIFIER operation is to support Ukraine forces by providing military instruction and capacity building in order to maintain the sovereignty of Ukraine,” Freeland told reporters.
“Ukraine is a very important partner to Canada and we will continue to support its efforts for democracy and economic growth,” she added.
Freeland said that Canada’s mission in Ukraine has seen the forces of both countries work together in a professional way that has helped improve their respective militaries.
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Sajjan said the focus is on training the Ukraine’s forces and that will continue to be the case as the mission moves forward. Specifically, Canadian forces will be helping with small team training, explosive ordnance disposal, military policing, medical training and modernizing Ukraine’s logistics system.
“I am proud of the talented and dedicated women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces who contribute to a more stable world, as we demonstrate our reliability as a partner to our allies and our commitment to European security,” Sajjan said in a statement issued to reporters.
Asked whether further helping Ukraine would put Canada in Russia’s sights, Sajjan said that Russia’s actions were what caused Canada to step in and help Ukraine in the first place.
Attempting to discredit Canada
Freeland was asked if the Russian regime is attempting to discredit her after a number of articles appeared on pro-Russian websites alleging her maternal grandfather was a Nazi collaborator in Ukraine during World War Two.
The minister said she is a big fan of Russian culture and language, which she speaks, and has many friends who still live in the country.
“I think that it is also public knowledge that here have been efforts, as U.S. intelligence forces have said, by Russia to destabilize the U.S. political system,” said Freeland.
“I think that Canadians, and indeed other Western countries, should be prepared for similar efforts to be directed at us. I am confident in our country’s democracy and I am confident that we can stand up to, and see through, those efforts.”
As CBC News reported last fall, the Liberal government gave its assurance privately to Ukrainian officials that the deployment, which was due to expire this month, would be extended.
A fresh rotation of Canadian troops, who have been providing combat training, first aid and roadside bomb defusing skills to Ukraine soldiers, departed recently for the multi-national instruction centre in Lviv.