Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko will visit Canada next week and address Parliament to thank this country and its 1.2 million people of Ukrainian descent for supporting Kiev as it battles Russia's efforts to break up the eastern European nation.
Separately, the Canadian government hopes to conclude an agreement with Kiev next week on disbursement of a $200-million-plus financial package of loan guarantees for Ukraine first announced in March.
Ottawa is also preparing to slap further sanctions on Vladimir Putin's regime despite a fragile ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, where the Kiev government has fought for months against pro-Russian separatists supported by arms – and more recently, troops – from Moscow. These measures will ensure Canada keeps pace with new penalties recently announced by the United States and European allies.
Mr. Poroshenko, a chocolate tycoon who took office in June, will visit Ottawa Sept. 17 and head to the U.S. after his Canadian stop.
His trip comes as supporters of Ukraine continue to press Western nations for arms. NATO allies such as Canada have shipped non-lethal military aid to Kiev, and// some have expressed reluctance to give weapons.
Stephen Harper announced Mr. Poroshenko's visit at a Toronto-area gala Thursday evening to raise money for humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. The Prime Minister's speech was a broadside against Mr. Putin, whom he called a liar for insisting Russian troops fighting in eastern Ukraine this summer had chosen to do so on their vacation.
"Mr. Putin has been stoking the fires of the crudest form of populist nationalism, desperate to camouflage, on his watch, the struggles of Russia's present, and waning hopes for its future," Mr. Harper said. "The only truth we can be certain of in any statement coming out of the Putin regime is that the truth must be something else entirely."
Ukraine publicly signalled in July how anxious it was to receive the hundreds of millions of dollars in aid Canada promised in March to help stabilize its economy, weakened by conflict with Russia, and promote development.
Canadian officials have insisted on taking time to ensure the right conditions are attached to the aid, including reporting requirements and restrictions on where the money will be spent, whether it's for banking-sector reform or anti-corruption measures. Corruption has plagued Ukraine for decades.
Mr. Harper was the only Group of Seven leader to attend Mr. Poroshenko's inauguration in June.
The Prime Minister has made the Ukraine crisis a central focus of foreign policy this year, slapping sanctions on individuals and entities linked to Russia's efforts to destabilize Ukraine and deploying a frigate, jet fighters and troops to a NATO reassurance mission in Europe designed to "blunt Russian expansionism," as he told the gala audience Thursday.
"For generations, the Ukrainian people have been oppressed by outsiders. The czars. The Nazis. The Soviets," he said. "And now, in the past year, once again they have seen their freedom attacked, their peaceful existence broken."
Mr. Harper, who's styled himself the most vocal hawk on Mr. Putin among G-7 industrialized countries, evoked the memory of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. in a speech condemning the re-emergence of a bellicose Russia.
"In the 13 years since the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93 were attacked, we have confronted terrorism in one failed state, only to have it surface in yet another," the Prime Minister said.
He rejected Mr. Putin's suggestion that Ukrainians and Russians are "practically one people" – a statement some analysts took as a sign the President wants to fold the smaller country into some Greater Russia.
"Mr. Putin, Ukraine is not Russia. In their hearts, Ukraine's people have never been Russian. And they will never be Russian," Mr. Harper said.
He announced that Canada will send observers to monitor the Oct. 26, 2014, parliamentary elections in Ukraine.