Canada will expand its military training mission in Ukraine and ship the embattled eastern European country non-lethal equipment to help it face down the threat of Russian invasion, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today.
The three-year extension and expansion of Operation Unifier was widely expected and was signalled by the Liberal government back in December, when Defence Minister Anita Anand received her mandate letter outlining her goals in the ministry.
Another 60 troops will be dispatched right away to bolster the contingent of 200 soldiers already on the ground and helping to instruct the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Additional troops could be sent if necessary and the size of the mission contingent could be increased to 400, Trudeau said today following a three-day cabinet retreat.
The Department of National Defence (DND) will provide Ukraine with non-lethal military equipment, including body armour and surveillance technology.
The prime minister today defended his government’s decision to not send Ukraine lethal weaponry — something other allies have done already.
“The solution to this tension should be diplomatic,” said Trudeau.
The training mission “is the best way Canada can help,” he added. “It is up to Russia to choose not to invade Ukraine.”
WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discusses aid for Ukraine
The shipment of equipment meets only one of the three requests made of Canada by the Ukrainian government. Kyiv had asked for an extension to the military training mission, “defensive weapons” and additional, pre-emptive sanctions.
Trudeau gave no indication today that his government is planning additional sanctions against Russia.
Trudeau said he spoke with the president of the European Union recently about the need for western democracies to coordinate penalties imposed on Russia in the event it invades Ukraine.
The announcement came on the same day that the Biden administration and NATO told Russia there will be no concessions to Moscow’s primary demands related to the crisis over Ukraine.
The written responses were anticipated and echo what senior U.S. and NATO officials have been saying for weeks. There was no immediate response from Russia — but Russian officials have warned that Moscow would quickly take “retaliatory measures” if the U.S. and its allies reject its demands.