WATCH: Ukraine's national security chief wants Canada to provide 'defensive weapons' amid Russia standoff
The request, which is among Ukraine’s top asks of Canada, comes at a time when several Western nations fear a Russian military invasion of the former Soviet state is becoming possible. Global News has learned Canada is considering whether to ship small weapons like firearms and ammunition to the country.
With no end in sight to the current situation, Ukraine needs to prepare for the worst, said Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, an advisory group that deals with national security and defence issues under the president of Ukraine.
“We are grateful … for all the assistance provided by the Government of Canada and from the people of Canada,” he told Global News’ Crystal Goomansingh in Kyiv on Wednesday.
“If we would like to have more in such times, yes, for sure – and what should this be? It’s defensive weapons, defensive weapons and once more, defensive weapons.”
Danilov, who spoke through a Ukrainian translator, added his country is ready to defend itself in the case of a Russian invasion.
“This is our land, and we will protect it,” he said.
On Wednesday, Russia warned it would retaliate if the United States and its allies reject its security demands around Ukraine.
The West is worried Russia will launch a military invasion of the former Soviet state since it has stationed roughly 100,000 troops around Ukraine’s borders, and started a series of war games in the region.
Moscow has denied it plans to invade its neighbour, but is pushing for the West to reduce its presence in Eastern Europe.
For weeks, Russia has sought guarantees that NATO will never admit Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations as members, and that the alliance will roll back troop deployments in other former Soviet bloc countries.
Some of these demands, such as a pledge to permanently bar Ukraine, are non-starters for NATO. However, Washington is open to discussing other ideas about arms control, missile deployments and confidence-building measures, Reuters reports.
“If the West continues its aggressive course, Moscow will take the necessary retaliatory measures,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told lawmakers on Wednesday.
“We won’t allow our proposals to be drowned in endless discussions.”
Earlier this week, NATO started bolstering its deterrence in the Baltic Sea region and the U.S. ordered 8,500 troops on higher alert for potential deployment to Europe. Other western nations have also sent planeloads of weapons to help Ukraine strengthen its defenses.
Canada, meanwhile, is loaning up to $120 million to Ukraine to help bolster its economy which has been crushed by the ongoing crisis.
Ottawa is also warning Russia it will impose further sanctions on Moscow if any military action is taken to compromise Ukrainian sovereignty.
In the meantime, the federal government is moving to protect Canadian citizens in the region.
On Tuesday, Ottawa ordered the families of diplomats stationed at the embassy in Ukraine to leave the country. Furthermore, the government said, Canadians in Ukraine should consider whether their presence in the country is essential.
Ottawa has also sent a small group of special forces operators to the region to help advise the government in Kyiv and help plan an evacuation of Canadian diplomatic staff in the event of an invasion.
In Ukraine, officials have sought to calm nerves as tensions escalate.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Wednesday while the concentration of Russian troops poses a threat, “their number is now insufficient for a large-scale offensive.”
“They are still missing some key military elements and systems to mount a big, full-scale offensive,” Kuleba told reporters, adding causing alarm could be an end in itself.
Russia, he claims, hopes to destabilize Ukraine by “spreading panic, raising pressure on Ukraine’s financial system and launching cyberattacks.”
As for Danilov, he wants Russia to deescalate its presence in Ukraine, citing the ongoing conflict involving Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that began after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
“For the war to be stopped, the Russians have to make such a decision because we did not unleash this war,” he said through the translator.
“(Russian President Vladimir) Putin should take away his troops, his tanks, his artillery … and go back home. That’s the only thing we ask and demand.”
— with files from Crystal Goomansingh and the Associated Press
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