Canada will send heavy artillery weapons to Ukraine as its land battle with Russia intensifies, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday, calling Kyiv’s resistance to Moscow’s military assault a struggle for liberty and democracy.
He said Ukraine had requested heavy artillery because it matches the phase of the war that Kyiv is in now as Russia redoubles its efforts to secure eastern Ukraine.
“Ukrainians have fought like heroes over the past number of months and they’re not just fighting for Ukraine, they are fighting for the values that underpin so many of our free and democratic societies,” Mr. Trudeau said during a visit to New Brunswick.
He offered no more details on the promised weapons shipment, saying more information would be released in the coming days. Heavy artillery guns fire large-calibre shells at long-range.
Canada has sent $110-million to Ukraine in military aid so far, including M72 rocket launchers, but in mid-March Defence Minister Anita Anand said Ottawa had exhausted its inventory of spare arms and would have to buy any further weaponry for donations. The federal government earmarked $500-million for additional military aid in its budget this month but has yet to detail how it will be spent.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress, an advocacy group that represents people of Ukrainian ancestry in Canada, said Ottawa needs to hurry with new aid. “We’re glad to see the Prime Minister talking about an announcement but this needs to be done quickly and shipped to Ukraine within days, not weeks,” Ihor Michalchyshyn, executive director with the group, said.
David Perry, president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said his guess would be that Canada once again draws on its existing stock given time constraints.
Canada’s military inventory includes 37 M777 howitzer artillery pieces and 93 C3 howitzers, the Department of National Defence said Tuesday. Both of these big weapons can be shipped by the Canadian military’s heavy-lift Globemaster aircraft, the department said.
Russia’s reinforcements in eastern Ukraine have set the stage for a protracted battle that military analysts say is certain to inflict heavy losses on both sides as the Russians try to encircle Ukraine’s fighters dug in to defend the Donbas region.
Retired lieutenant-colonel Steve Day, a former commander of Canada’s JTF 2 special operations force, said his concern about a foreign arms purchase is the potential lead-time it could require. Buying foreign howitzers and training Ukrainians to use them could incur months of delay.
“What the Ukrainians need is stuff that allows them to fight tonight. They have to go fight and win now.”
The Canadian government also announced more sanctions on “close associates of the Russian regime,” including Russian oligarchs and their family members. The 14 individuals targeted Tuesday include President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters.
The announcements were made hours after Mr. Trudeau, U.S. President Joe Biden and other allied leaders held a virtual meeting to discuss imposing further economic punishment on Russia and vowed to provide more weaponry and aid to Ukraine.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One as Mr. Biden flew to New Hampshire that the leaders reiterated their commitment to providing security, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine in the face of Russian’s invasion.
She said the United States is preparing another round of sanctions to impose on Moscow in coming days.
In the 90-minute video call for the leaders, Mr. Biden and the allies discussed their diplomatic engagements and co-ordinated efforts to continue to impose “severe economic costs to hold Russia accountable,” Ms. Psaki said. They are to co-ordinate through the Group of Seven, the European Union and NATO, she added.
Others on the call with Mr. Biden included European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as well as the leaders of Poland, Japan and Italy.
Ms. Psaki said more U.S. military aid is planned.
A French presidential adviser said allies had discussed how to provide security guarantees to Ukraine after the war if it’s not part of NATO and its automatic defence mechanism known as Article 5.
“Our country is ready to provide security guarantees,” the French official told Reuters. “It would be military supplies so that it can deal with a new attack or, possibly, guarantees that would see us get involved if Ukraine is attacked in a way where we could assess how to assist it.”
Russia seized a town in eastern Ukraine as part of a fresh all-out assault that Ukraine has described as the Battle of the Donbas aimed at taking two provinces.
The United States sees Russia carrying out a “prelude” to larger, expected offensive operations in the eastern part of its neighbouring country, a senior U.S. official told Reuters.
With a report from Reuters
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