Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk met with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Kiev’s ambassador to Canada on Tuesday regarding the crisis in Ukraine, making the rounds on what he describes as “some of the darkest days in the country’s history.”
Mr. Melnyk, a Ukrainian-Canadian who has been recognized by the former Soviet state for his charitable work there, met for about 20 minutes with Mr. Baird on Tuesday in the minister’s office on Parliament Hill.
“Mr. Melnyk is a member of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’ Advisory Council and has been involved with charitable work in Ukraine for more than a decade,” his spokesman Ken Villazor, said in an e-mail Tuesday evening. “He was visiting Parliament Hill and took the opportunity to meet briefly with Minister Baird to share his personal views on the developing crisis.”
According to the Senators website, Mr. Melnyk received special honours from Ukraine’s then-president Victor Yushchenko for his charitable work with Help Us Help The Children, a humanitarian organization that benefits orphaned children in the country.
Mr. Baird’s office confirmed Tuesday’s meeting but wouldn’t provide details about the private conversation, other than to say the pair discussed the situation in Ukraine and Canada’s response to it.
Mr. Melnyk, a businessman who founded a major publicly traded pharmaceutical company, afterward attended Question Period in the House of Commons before next heading to the Ukrainian embassy.
Mr. Melnyk met with Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko to “offer his support,” Mr. Villazor said. He also signed the official book of condolences for those who perished in the popular uprising that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.
“Mr. Melnyk is deeply concerned for the people of Ukraine and describes the situation as some of the darkest days in the country's history,” Mr. Villazor said.
Mr. Prystaiko, who met with Mr. Baird after Mr. Melnyk for about 30 minutes, could not immediately be reached after his discussion with the Senators owner. But when asked about the meeting beforehand, Mr. Prystaiko noted Mr. Melnyk’s Ukranian heritage and said he knows him “personally.”
“We’d like to talk about many things,” Mr. Prystaiko told reporters. “He’s been quite famous for what he’s doing in Ukraine, helping charities. I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes with more ideas like that.”
As for Mr. Prystaiko’s meeting with Mr. Baird, the minister assured him Ottawa is working with the International Monetary Fund, which is currently crafting a plan to assist the recession-hit country. He said Canada “wants to be a part of that solution, working with the United States, the European Union and others.”