Skip to main content

People stand on the barricades in Kiev on Feb. 4, 2014.VASILY FEDOSENKO/Reuters

Pressure is mounting on Ottawa to "put its money where its mouth is" and join its allies in assembling an aid package that could help draw Ukraine out of turmoil and closer to the West.

Brussels and Washington recently raised the possibility of financial aid for Ukraine's recession-hit economy in exchange for democratic reforms. And Ottawa should get on board, said Michael Byers, the Canada research chair in global politics and international law at the University of British Columbia.

"If the government of Canada was serious, and wanted to really put its money where its mouth is, then why aren't we making a loan offer to Ukraine?" Mr. Byers said.

Rick Roth, director of communications for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, said the government is "considering all possible options" and remains in close contact with its international partners. On Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and discussed the potential for further action, including financial sanctions.

Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday failed to agree on curbing the powers of President Viktor Yanukovych, who is reported to be considering early elections to resolve the situation. The European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, arrived in the country to bolster international pressure to end the two-month crisis, and dined with opposition leaders on Tuesday evening.

Ms. Ashton is slated to meet on Wednesday with Mr. Yanukovych, who has been under fire since he decided in November to shun deeper association with the EU in favour of closer ties with Russia. In two months of unrest and opposition demands, Ukraine's prime minister and cabinet resigned, and Russia suspended a promised a $15-billion bailout. A Western aid package could set up a new confrontation with Moscow, which had objected to Ukraine signing a trade and association agreement with the EU.

NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar said Ottawa should "absolutely" commit to providing loan assistance alongside Brussels and Washington, and that the government should be more explicit about what, if anything, it has offered. "What I want to know is whether the Conservative government has offered support to the U.S. and the EU for an aid package to Ukraine, and if so, how much are they committing and in what areas are we going to be providing support?" he said.

Mr. Roth noted the government's announcement last week that it has barred from Canada some senior Ukrainian officials "responsible for the deplorable repression" of opposition voices. He also reiterated the government's outrage over reports of the kidnapping of prominent Ukrainian activist Dmytro Bulatov. Lithuania, which is now treating Mr. Bulatov after intense diplomatic lobbying, on Tuesday confirmed signs of torture and urged an independent probe of the crime.

The president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress said he raised the prospect of Ottawa contributing to a Western aid package with Mr. Baird in November. Paul Grod said the minister's position at the time was that a loan was a question first for the Europeans, who could then reach out to Canada for potential participation.

"[The EU-U.S. aid talks] are welcome news," Mr. Grod said. "Canada should and can play an important role."

With a report from AFP