Defence Minister Bill Blair announced on Sunday that Canada will be buying $33 million worth of air defence equipment for Ukraine, as that country continues its counteroffensive against Russia.
The Canadian contribution is part of a U.K.-led partnership that is securing air defence equipment for Ukraine, which is under threat from Russian missile and drone attacks.
“The purpose of this coalition is to procure high priority air defence equipment for Ukraine, including hundreds of short and medium-range air defence missiles [and] associated systems, to enable Ukraine to protect itself from Russian aggression,” Blair said during the announcement.
The minister said the contribution was part of the $500 million worth of military aid for Kyiv that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in June.
Canada, home to one of the world’s largest Ukrainian diasporas, is a vocal supporter of Kyiv. Since Russia invaded its neighbour in February 2022, Ottawa has committed more than $8 billion in aid, including about $1.8 billion in military assistance.
The announcement was part of Blair’s first international trip as defence minister. While in the United Kingdom, he visited the Lydd Military Training Camp, where Canadian soldiers are stationed as part of Operation UNIFIER, the Ukrainian training mission.
“The work that they’re doing is something that all Canadians are proud of and should be proud of, because, frankly, they’re saving lives,” Blair said.
Ukraine is still pursuing a large-scale counteroffensive against Russian forces occupying parts of the south and east. The attack has made slow progress, although U.S. officials are now expressing some optimism that significant gains could soon be made.
Former Ukrainian defence minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk, who is still serving as an adviser to Ukraine, said in an interview on Rosemary Barton Live that progress was being made, though it was difficult.
“The quantity of mines is absolutely staggering,” he told host Rosemary Barton.
“It’s very, very hard, it goes with lots of casualties. It’s an extremely difficult endeavour, but it is succeeding.”
Zelenskyy to visit White House this week
The announcement comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to visit Washington, D.C., to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden this week.
The Ukrainian leader will visit the White House after an appearance at the United Nations General Assembly, where he hopes to secure additional support for his embattled country.
Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bob Rae, told Barton in a separate interview that it remains incumbent on the international community to ensure that Ukraine is armed and able to defend itself — though he said the UN was not the main forum for that discussion.
“Nobody would like a shorter war better than President Zelenskyy. The only issue is does he have the means to do it,” Rae said. “The reality is that the Ukrainians have suffered tremendously under horrible aggression from the Russians, and I think they’ve done a magnificent job responding to this conflict, this aggression.”