Canada Considers Sending Troops to Ukraine
As the United States and Britain prepare to send advisors to support the Ukrainian military, Canada seriously considers doing the same. But many Canadian lawmakers are leery of becoming further involved in a conflict half-way around the world.
26 Febraury, 2015
Canadian Defense Minister Jason Kenney announced on Wednesday that Prime Minister Harper’s administration is seriously considering taking part in US-led training missions in Ukraine. Kenney said Canadian efforts would focus primarily on battlefield medical training.
“That’s the kind of technical training that we can offer,” he said, according to the Canadian Press. “We are in discussions and looking at options, and we’re open to – as I’ve been saying for two weeks now – open to participating in training missions.”
He did not rule out the possibility of Canadian advisors also taking part in combat training.
Canada has already provided Ukrainian soldiers with two shipments of non-lethal military gear. They have also provided satellite images which track pro-independence militias’ movement in the east of the country. Any action beyond that must first be approved by the House of Commons.
“If we are going to work towards anything different than what we’re doing now, which is non-kinetic flak jackets…we could send night vision goggles. That’s been agreed to and we’re on board with that,” Kenney said. “Anything beyond that requires two things. One, concerted NATO action. Two, a decision by the Parliament of Canada.”
Kenney insists that the proposal would only be an extension of Canadian NATO commitments.
“We’ll be doing more later this year in NATO exercises, all of which is designed to send a message to Russia that Canada, together with our NATO allies, stands with our eastern European friends against any intimidation or territorial aggression on the part of Vladimir Putin,” he said.
Troops from Poland march during an exercise in Bemowo Piskie near Orzysz, in northeastern Poland. File photo
Russia, of course, categorically denies its involvement in the conflict.
Still, many express concerns with escalating Canadian involvement in the conflict.
“Unless there’s a prospect for years of war, and I don’t think there is, it’s already very late in the game to be reinforcing Kiev’s ragtag forces,” former Canadian ambassador to Russia. Chris Westdal, told CBC News.
Lawmakers may also be hesitant to send advisors after an incident last month, in which Canadian military advisors fired back at self-proclaimed Islamic State militants in northern Iraq.
“I asked the prime minister straight up in September whether this was a combat mission, whether Canadian troops would be involved in combat. I got a categorical answer, and the answer was no,” New Democratic Party leader Tom Mulcair told reporters, accusing Harper of misleading Parliament about his administration’s intentions.
If a similar incident occurred in Ukraine, it could escalate tensions and draw Canada into the conflict even further.
Leader of the Liberal opposition, Justin Trudeau, also wants more details about the government’s plan before signing off on training missions.
On Wednesday, the British government announced it would send 75 military advisors to Ukraine next month. This follows a decision by the US to send 800 troops to train soldiers in western Ukraine
Ukraine military has begun heavy weapons withdrawal – military spokesman
Kiev troops have started the long-promised withdrawal of heavy weapons from eastern Ukraine, a step required by the fragile ceasefire agreement signed earlier this month. The rebels have been criticizing their opponents for stalling the disengagement.
26 Febraury, 2015
“In accordance with the agreement reached in Minsk on February 12, today Ukraine begins withdrawal of 100mm artillery from the disengagement line. It's the first step towards withdrawal of heavy weapons, which will only be carried out under OSCE monitoring and verification,” the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The movement of artillery pieces is already underway and should take about a day, a Ukrainian military spokesperson said. The hardware will be pulled back 25km from the disengagement line.
Kiev's West-backed 'ludicrous demands' may derail ceasefire – Moscow
The order to withdraw heavy weapons was given on Thursday after the Ukrainian military confirmed that they had not been shot at for a day. No combat casualties have been reported for a second day in a row.
“If there are any attempts to launch an offensive, the withdrawal schedule will be changed. The Ukrainian troops are fully prepared to defend the country,” the statement added.
Meanwhile rebel forces are continuing to pull back their heavy weapons, as they have been doing for days.
“Today at 10am, an OSCE-monitored movement of our columns commenced. They recorded this movement,” rebel spokesman Eduard Basurin said.
The self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) said it wants to withdraw 180 artillery pieces and 17 rocket launchers on Thursday. Previously it withdrew 400 artillery pieces, including some 320 captured from the Ukrainian troops after their retreat from Debaltsevo.
The rebels have already withdrawn 90 percent of heavy weaponry from the disengagement line, their leader, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, said Thursday.
The rebels voiced concerns over lack of similar moves by Kiev, suspecting it of foul play. Kiev insisted that it would keep its weapons in their positions until at least two days are spent without a single shot.
Moscow criticized Kiev's stubbornness, saying the condition it voiced was unrealistic.
Under the Minsk agreement both sides must pull their heavy weapons back from the disengagement line to form a buffer zone of 50 to 140km, depending on the type of weapon. The process is expected to be complete by March 1. OSCE is tasked with verifying the withdrawal.
Alexander Hug, deputy chief monitor of the OSCE special monitoring mission to Ukraine, told RT on Thursday that both sides of the Ukrainian conflict are finally withdrawing their heavy weaponry from the frontline, stressing the move is “something that they have not done before.”
“We see now mutual actions towards compliance within the Minsk arrangements. The OSCE special monitoring mission knows that both sides have announced that they will be moving hardware away from the frontline,” Hug said. “This afternoon, the government of Ukraine has done that as well. We welcome this mutual step now from both sides to start working towards utterance to their commitments.”
DPR withdrew 90% of heavy eqipment, Kiev: none (video)
Video: Ukraine Military - Truce Holding, No Casualties Reported in Past Two Days (PressTV)
Joaquin Flores for PressTV
In this brief interview, I speak optimistically about the Ceasefire, explaining that the break-away republics of Donetsk and Lugansk need this peace to rebuild critical infrastructure, and try to bring back some semblance of normalcy back to the lives of the people.
I also express concern that Ukraine will treat this ceasefire as something else, which in violation of international law, would be simply to rearm and resupply. The definition of a ceasefire is those things which are meant to permanently end the hostilities.
Poroshenko has already stated last week that he will use this ceasefire in order to re-arm and re-supply. Naturally part of this is theatrics meant to shore up his dwindling base of support. But it also reflects an expectation upon him which his US handlers have.
Ukraine Prepares for an Attack Against Russia
A strange logic from the British press. NATO demosntrating its wares 150 km from St Petersburg proves the Russians are about to invade the Baltics, right?