Ukraine's President journeyed to Ottawa to thank Canadians for helping his beleaguered country escape Russia's clutches and move closer to the West, but he also came seeking sophisticated surveillance aid that could keep Moscow at bay.
Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire who owns a candy manufacturing empire, received the political equivalent of a rock star's welcome on Parliament Hill on Wednesday, with a 21-gun salute, thunderous applause and waves of standing ovations from MPs and senators.
The Ukrainian leader, whose country has been at war for months with pro-Russian rebels backed by Vladimir Putin, delivered a historic address to a joint session of Parliament, where he spoke of the joy he felt on Tuesday as Kiev lawmakers ratified an agreement to forge closer ties with the European Union.
A struggle over whether to embrace Europe rather than Moscow was at the heart of the democratic uprising in Kiev that forced the ouster of former pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych in February, weeks before Mr. Putin began efforts to seize Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and destabilize eastern Ukraine.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr. Poroshenko called the new Ukraine-European Union co-operation deal a step toward membership in the EU and "the last farewell … to the Soviet Union," referring to the Russian-dominated Communist state that once kept Ukraine in thrall.
"That was a Rubicon Ukraine crossed and we never, ever turn back to our awful past."
Canada announced $3-million in humanitarian aid for Ukraine on Wednesday and said it's finalized a deal to disburse a $200-million low-interest loan to Kiev to help stabilize the economy of the eastern European country. The loan will be delivered through Export Development Canada, the export-financing agency, and repayable over five years with Canada given the right to audit the spending.
The Ukrainian leader profusely thanked Stephen Harper's government for its vocal support, saying no other country, "with the possible exception of Poland," has been so ardent in speaking in defence of Kiev's rights in the face of Russian aggression.
He reflected on how Ukraine used to say it gained its independence after the Cold War "without shedding a single drop of blood," and then noted it is not true any more. "Now is the real fight for our independence." More than 3,000 people have died in the conflict between Kiev and pro-Kremlin rebels in Ukraine's eastern region.
A fragile truce exists between Mr. Poroshenko's government and separatists, but Moscow still holds the Crimean peninsula it seized earlier this year.
Mr. Poroshenko on Wednesday signalled he needs more help.
Ukraine has repeatedly asked for weapons, in particular defensive equipment such as anti-tank or anti-air assets, that could stand up to Russian aggression, but Canada and other NATO allies have serious misgivings about this and have limited assistance to non-lethal items such as helmets and protective vests.
A source familiar with the conversation between Ukraine and Canada said Kiev is asking Ottawa for help in the surveillance of regions that border Russia.
"Ukraine can't see where the Russian forces are, so that's what they're asking for, that type of satellite information," the source said. This monitoring could be conducted by drones, but Kiev's request is centred on satellites for now.
Mr. Poroshenko alluded to this request in a TV interview on Wednesday where he mentioned Kiev's need for "sophisticated and state of the art" assistance to help Ukraine "be stronger" defensively.
"Look, I don't go deeply into the details, but … we can speak about [sharing] … reconnaissance and intelligence information – that can be possible," he told CBC's Power and Politics.
The Ukrainian President said he is also seeking petroleum from Canada to help Kiev reduce its dependence on Russian supplies. It's likely years before Canada is able to export significant quantities of liquefied natural gas, but Mr. Poroshenko told CBC he'd like Canadian expertise on nuclear power as well.
Canada is home to 1.2 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent and their political clout is not immaterial in federal politics.
Mr. Harper has made the Ukraine crisis a central focus of foreign policy this year, imposing sanctions on individuals and entities linked to Russia's efforts to destabilize Ukraine and deploying a frigate, jet fighters and troops to a NATO mission in Europe designed to "blunt Russian expansionism" in the region. He was the only Group of Seven leader to attend Mr. Poroshenko's inauguration in June and the first to visit Kiev after the crisis began.
"For Canadians, with our deep connections to the Ukrainian people, this is not to us just a matter of international law or political principle, this is a matter of kinship, this is a matter of family, this is personal and we will stand by you," Mr. Harper told Mr. Poroshenko in Wednesday.