Canada has an "authoritative voice" on the conflict in eastern Ukraine and could help persuade the United States to send lethal weapons to Ukraine, that country's deputy speaker says.
Andriy Parubiy made the comments in an exclusive interview on Monday during a visit to Ottawa and Washington that's aimed at persuading Western countries to boost their support for Ukraine amid fading hopes for the latest ceasefire agreement. Ukraine's government has repeatedly asked the U.S., Canada and Europe to supply it with what it calls defensive weapons to help its military fight Russian-backed militants in eastern Ukraine.
Mr. Parubiy's visit to Ottawa included meetings with Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson and James Bezan, the parliamentary secretary to the defence minister, the Ukrainian embassy said. Mr. Parubiy was also scheduled to hold meetings with House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer and other MPs.
"Canada has been a kind of a leader in the world vis-à-vis Ukraine," Mr. Parubiy told The Globe and Mail through a translator. "Words and actions are the same in Canada, so it's kind of an example for the rest of the world with their Ukraine policy."
He said Ukraine would like to secure a political commitment from its allies to provide arms, adding that the technical details of which government can deliver which weapons could be worked out later. For example, he said, the U.S. has high-quality weapons and European countries would be in a better position to provide items such as drones and communications equipment.
He said Canada could help to influence the U.S. decision on whether to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine. "We're sure that Canada's voice is authoritative and carries a lot of weight," he added. "So the U.S. has to make this decision [about providing weapons], but Canada is kind of the authoritative voice that can push [for] that. It can influence the U.S. decision."
Western countries have a special commitment to helping Ukraine because of assurances that were offered in exchange for an agreement to give up its nuclear arsenal after the fall of the Soviet Union, Mr. Parubiy said. "We think this is a global challenge, a global fight, not just a Russia-Ukraine fight," he added. "We believe we are fighting not only for Ukraine but for Euro-Atlantic and European values. So I think it's fair for us to expect support."
Some experts fear that providing more weapons to an already intractable conflict could increase the bloodshed and cause Russian President Vladimir Putin to provide further support to rebels in the region. Asked about those concerns on Monday, Mr. Parubiy replied, "I have a simple question: How can it get worse?" he said.
Mr. Parubiy said he would also ask for increased sanctions on Russia during his meetings with Canadian politicians. And he praised Ottawa's decision to assist in training members of Ukraine's military.
The federal government has committed to training military police in Ukraine through a U.S.-Ukraine commission on defence reform. "We believe that using Canada's experience and knowledge we will be able to reform both the armed forces and general staff. And we are counting on that experience," he said.
In brief comments before his meeting with Mr. Parubiy, Mr. Nicholson said Ottawa is against any violation of the Minsk ceasefire. "Any attempt to reduce or take away Ukraine's sovereignty in that way is completely opposed by Canada," he said.
A statement provided later on Monday by Mr. Nicholson's office said the two discussed the security situation in eastern Ukraine, including concerns over the Ukrainian city of Mariupol and government reforms. It did not mention the possibility of providing weapons to Ukraine's military.