Prime Minister Stephen Harper will travel to Ukraine next week to meet with Kiev's post-revolutionary government, becoming the first G7 leader to announce such plans since the months-long crisis escalated into the worst confrontation between the West and Russia since the Cold War.
Mr. Harper will meet Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on March 22 to "discuss the evolving situation there and how Canada can, along with its allies, continue to provide support," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement on Friday.
"Canada remains united with its allies in recognizing the Government of Ukraine, and in supporting Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty," said Mr. Harper, who first announced his trip on Twitter. "We will continue to work with our allies to support efforts to restore the country to stability and unity so that the people of Ukraine can thrive and prosper free of intimidation and threat."
The last time Mr. Harper visited the former Soviet state was in 2010, but he just recently deployed Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to Kiev to meet with the new leadership after a popular uprising toppled Viktor Yanukovych's government. Since then, Russia has invaded Ukraine's southern Crimea region, proclaiming its right to protect its interests and ethnic Russians there.
Early Friday evening, Mr. Baird said sanctions against Russian officials remain on the table, and hinted that dozens of countries are willing to do the same and "act as one" in order to hit Moscow hard.
"We're giving diplomacy and a political solution time," he said at a press conference, just two days before the March referendum on Crimea's status in Ukraine. When asked how much time Canada is willing to give, Mr. Baird noted the government is watching two things: "the conduct of an illegal referendum under military occupation; the Duma meeting and seeking to annex Crimea."
Mr. Harper's trip to Ukraine kicks off a series of European visits, including one to Berlin, where he will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Ms. Merkel, who has spoken directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin several times since his troops invaded Ukraine last month, is widely viewed as playing a key role in liaising between the West and Moscow.
After Kiev, the Prime Minister will be joined in the Netherlands by Industry Minister James Moore for bilateral talks and a trade mission from March 23-24, and also to attend the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague from March 24-25. The summit, which will draw representation from 53 countries, is billed as an opportunity to discuss nuclear terrorism prevention and international efforts to improve nuclear security.
While there, Mr. Harper will meet with his counterpart, Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and will have an audience with King Willem-Alexander. Next, Mr. Harper is off to Berlin – his first official visit since 2010 – to meet Ms. Merkel and German President Joachim Gauck. International Trade Minister Ed Fast will lead a trade mission there.
"In both [the Netherlands and Germany], leaders will discuss ways to increase trade and investment to further strengthen bilateral relations," the PMO statement said. "They will also discuss international security challenges and the global and European economies. The Prime Minister will also use these opportunities to discuss the situation in Ukraine and the response to it by Canada and its allies."
In both countries, Mr. Harper will meet with business and community leaders to explore new commercial opportunities "that the Canada-EU Trade Agreement will unlock," he said.