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A Ukrainian gun crew moves quickly to a new position after firing a M777 howitzer toward Russian positions in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, on May 22.IVOR PRICKETT/The New York Times News Service

Canada is sending Ukraine 20,000 rounds of artillery shells: the kind of ammunition Ukrainian forces are sorely in need of as Kyiv warns of being outgunned by Russia’s military.

Defence Minister Anita Anand announced that the federal government is spending nearly $100-milllion to purchase the 155 millimetre NATO-standard ammunition from the United States. She added that Ottawa is now expediting the shipment to Ukraine.

“Canada and Ukraine are more than close partners. We are family,” Ms. Anand said during a visit to a Ukrainian cultural centre in Victoria, B.C.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned the World Economic Forum in a virtual speech this week that Russia’s military firepower vastly surpasses that of his own country by 20 to one. He said last week that 50 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers are dying daily as Moscow steps up its effort to capture more territory in Ukraine’s east and south where battles have been repeatedly described as artillery duels.

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Mr. Zelensky pleaded for more weaponry that allows Ukraine to “fight at great distance” from the Russians.

“We do not have enough technical supplies because we are fighting against such a big country with a big army,” Mr. Zelensky said on Monday. “They have 20 times more equipment.”

Ms. Anand said the shells will be fired from guns including the M777 howitzers that Canada and allies have already donated to Ukraine; weapons that allow soldiers to strike Russian targets accurately up to 40 kilometres away. Canadian soldiers recently trained Ukrainians on using the big guns outside Ukraine, in a country that Ottawa will not identify for reasons of security.

She said Western allies will not allow Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military assault on Ukraine to succeed.

“Kyiv remains free and the Maple Leaf flies over the streets of Ukraine’s capital once again at our embassy,” Ms. Anand said. Canada’s diplomatic mission in the city reopened early this month.

Ottawa pledged $500-million last month in additional military aid this year for Ukraine that has also included eight armoured vehicles.

The artillery donation follows a slight ebb in assistance from Canada, which last announced military aid 16 days ago when it said it was dispatching airstrike-targeting gear for Ukrainian military drones.

“By my math, there is still well over $300-million left unspent,” David Perry, president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said of Canada’s pledged amount.

He said Ukraine has made gains in efforts to repel Russian forces over the past month, but the conflict is “by no means in the rear-view mirror and they need more support quickly to minimize loss of life and the impact on their economic livelihood.”

Mr. Perry said Ukraine appears to be using artillery shells at a rapid pace, noting that Canada’s donation is coming on top of more than 150,000 shells pledged by allies in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, Russian forces were conducting an all-out assault to encircle Ukrainian troops in twin cities straddling a river in eastern Ukraine, a battle which could determine the success or failure of Moscow’s main campaign in the east. The easternmost part of the Ukrainian-held Donbas pocket, the city of Sievierodonetsk on the east bank of the Siverskiy Donets river and its twin Lysychansk on the west bank, have become the pivotal battlefield there, with Russian forces advancing from three directions to encircle them.

However, the May 23 assessment of the conflict by the Institute for the Study of War in Washington by researcher Kateryna Stepanenko and colleagues said Ukraine’s counteroffensive northeast of Kharkiv, its second-largest city, “continues to threaten Russian positions and is forcing Russia to pull units from continuing offensive operations in eastern Ukraine to shore up their defensive position.”

With reports from Reuters

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