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Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks with Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Dmitry Lovetsky/The Associated Press

Stephen Harper departed Ottawa for his final overseas trip before Canada's fall election, a tour of Europe he will use to try and bolster his credentials as an international statesmen with about three months left before federal political leaders hit the hustings.

The Prime Minister will stop first in beleaguered Ukraine, under attack from Russian-backed rebels, to demonstrate solidarity with the ancestral home of more than 1.2 million Canadians.

Then he's headed to the Group of Seven meeting of wealthy industrialized countries in Bavaria, Germany, where leaders will confer on the future of sanctions and censure of Russia, which they kicked out of their club in 2014 over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

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Afterwards Mr. Harper will fly to Poland, which is on the eastern flank of the NATO military alliance and is one of the countries that benefits from North Atlantic Treaty Organization's year-long effort to deter further Russian expansionism.

Finally, in Rome he will meet with Pope Francis, the spiritual head of an estimated 1.2 billion Roman Catholics around the world including many Canadians.

Mr. Harper is heading to Ukraine to demonstrate solidarity just as Kiev's war with Russian-backed rebels escalates, but the Prime Minister is still balking at providing weapons to Ukrainians as they have requested.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Thursday told his military to prepare for a possible "full-scale invasion" by Russia, a statement he made one day after the worst fighting with Moscow-backed separatists in months.

February's Minsk ceasefire agreement governing eastern Ukraine is in tatters after a 12-hour firefight involving artillery on both sides on Wednesday. Kiev said rebels tried to take the eastern Ukrainian town Maryinka.

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