Ukraine’s top priorities for the $500-million Canada earmarked for military aid to Kyiv in the 2022 budget are the same ones it’s asking of all allies: anti-aircraft weapons, artillery and armoured vehicles, a senior Ukrainian diplomat said Wednesday.
“We need stuff that can help us first to close the sky. Second, we need tanks and heavy artillery to defend and also to advance attack and advance where it’s possible,” Andriy Shevchenko, a former Ukrainian ambassador to Canada, said.
Mr. Shevchenko, who is also an officer in Ukraine’s reserve forces, said Kyiv expects it will face a “World War Two-type” of land battle in eastern Ukraine where Russia has refocused its attack.
He said Ukraine anticipates it will face a “lot of tanks and armoured vehicles and artillery” as Moscow tries to consolidate its hold there.
“That pretty much gives you a sense of what we need,” the former envoy to Canada said. He said Ukraine needs these armaments now.
Russian forces have abandoned their attempt to capture the capital city of Kyiv but are redoubling their efforts in Ukraine’s east. Moscow is beefing up its forces for a new assault on the Donbas region, setting the stage for a protracted battle. Heavy losses are a certainty on both sides, military analysts have said, as the Russians try to encircle Ukraine’s fighters.
The federal government last week earmarked half a billion dollars in the 2022 budget for what it said would be “military aid” to Ukraine but it has not spelled out how it will spend the money. Daniel Minden, press secretary for Defence Minister Anita Anand, declined to elaborate Wednesday, saying only that Ms. Anand is “is in frequent contact with Ukraine’s Defence Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, about Ukraine’s most pressing needs and how Canada can best help.”
Ottawa said in March that it had exhausted available inventory of military donations after sending rocket launchers to Ukraine, and it would have to purchase further equipment instead of digging into its stores.
David Perry, president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said there is such a demand for new weaponry in the international market right now that many Western countries are looking to their domestic arms industry first.
“Everybody has given stuff to Ukraine and is trying to restock and everybody is trying to find more stuff to give to Ukraine but there is only so much supply,” Mr. Perry said.
“If you go to the U.S. market you are in competition with the American government to source something and send it to Ukraine.”
He said Canada should look to its armoured vehicle industry where the biggest manufacturer is General Dynamics Land Systems in London, Ont. It makes light armoured vehicles (LAVs) for the Canadian Armed Forces and exports them to buyers such as the Saudi government. “This is a finished product Canada actually makes.”
Roman Shimonov, president of Roshel Inc., a Mississauga-based manufacturer of armoured vehicles, said he’s receiving a lot of international inquires to buy his products in order to ship them to Ukraine. He said his vehicles are not meant for offensive operations but for defensive purposes such as medical evacuation.
Retired lieutenant-general Michael Day said Canada should be carefully co-ordinating Ukrainian military aid with allies so that international donations don’t arrive in an irregular manner, which clogs up that country’s supply lines, or that Kyiv isn’t forced to devote energy to receiving contributions that are unnecessary.
The latest phase of the war in Ukraine’s east means “there is going to be a heightened level of conventional military combat activity: the Ukrainians versus the Russians,” Mr. Day said. “We need to work on the assumption that the ability of the Ukrainian military to sustain this combat will be wholly dependent on the Western world’s ability to flow munitions.”
Separately, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has weighed in on growing calls to declare Russia’s actions in Ukraine as genocide, saying it is “absolutely right” that the term is being used given rampant allegations of war crimes and other human-rights violations.
Mr. Trudeau made the comments during a news conference in Laval, Que., on Wednesday, after U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters the previous day that Russia’s conduct in Ukraine appeared to his eyes to be a genocide.
While both North American leaders noted that it will be up to lawyers to determine whether Russia’s actions meet the international standard for genocide, they were nonetheless united in welcoming use of the term.
“As President Biden highlighted, there are official processes around determinations of genocide,” Mr. Trudeau said. “But I think it’s absolutely right that more and more people be talking and using the word ‘genocide’ in terms of what Russia is doing.”
The Prime Minister went on to list a series of war crimes and human-rights violations allegedly perpetrated by Russian forces under the direction of President Vladimir Putin, including deliberate attacks on civilians and the use of sexual violence.
“They’re attacking Ukrainian identity and culture,” Mr. Trudeau said. “These are all things that are war crimes that Putin is responsible for. These are all things that are crimes against humanity.”
With reports from Reuters and The Canadian Press
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