Ukraine thankful for financial aid but also looking for military aid
By: Tanya Talaga Staff Reporter, Published on Fri Mar 27 2015
Officially, Ukrainian cabinet minister Oleksiy Pavlenko’s short visit to Canada this week was to thank Ottawa for another $200-million loan to shore up its battered economy, but he also came with the message that more western aid is needed — of the lethal kind.
A fragile ceasefire in east Ukraine is really anything but, admitted Pavlenko, Ukraine’s agriculture minister. But Ukraine holds out hope that one day they’ll be able to force Russian President Vladimir Putin out of the eastern part of the country. There are nearly 1 million people trapped in the Donetsk area as fighting continues, he said.
“Everyday, from the territories controlled by pro-Russian terrorists, we see 10 to 15 times firing and we also have soldiers killed nearly every day on the Ukrainian side, unfortunately. We also see military movements. Our intelligence sees movements on Russian territory, additional tanks,” Pavlenok added.
“We are ready to suffer . . . . But we also need help from foreign society,” Pavlenko said during a brief stop in Toronto.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution in favour of sending arms and non-lethal aid to Ukraine but Russia has warned against what they call a provocation.
It has been just over 100 days since a new government took over in Ukraine. The cabinet’s challenges are immense. Besides a frail ceasefire, the country is fighting oligarchs and dealing with a messy economic situation. Ukraine’s economy contracted 7 per cent last year, the central bank has hiked interest rates to a crippling 30 per cent and it owes Russia $3 billion.
Ukraine stands as a buffer between Russia and the rest of Europe. On a larger scale, Ukraine’s fight to throw Russia out of the eastern territories is a fight to safeguard all of Europe, added Pavlenko earlier this week in Washington, D.C.
“I think western countries and democratic countries do a lot. I would be happy if they could do more because we are not fighting for ourselves. We are really fighting for Europe and European values,” Pavlenko said.
“We have a strong will to defend our country. We fight for our home. For sure having available, more lethal weapons, communications devices, night vision devices, intelligence to collect data, we would be very strong and effective,” he said.
There are nearly one million Canadians of Ukrainian heritage. Pavlenko praised Canada for standing up for Ukraine on the world stage and noted the ties between the nations are historically strong.
On Friday, Pavlenko met with Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson in Mississauga. Nicholson said Canada would contribute another $2 million towards the civilian-led Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitoring mission and to extend the mission for 25 current Canadian monitors.
Canada originally gave Ukraine a $200-million low-interest loan last year with the intention of helping them stabilize the economy. The second disbursement of $200 million will be transferred by Sunday. It is part of a global relief effort for Ukraine. Earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund loaned $17.5 billion (U.S.) to help bolster the banks and provide a financial backbone for the government, which has bled itself dry paying for the fight against Russia.
“We are not asking (to) give us money free of charge. We are asking for loans to develop our economy. To fight effectively, you need a strong economy, it is the basis,” he said.
After five rounds of negotiations with Canada, efforts will be made to complete the free trade deal this year, he added.
“We are waiting no for proposals from the Canadian side. We’ll try to find solutions as fast as possible,” he said, preferring not to say what the sticking points are in the negotiations.
Sanctions against Russia, political pressure against Putin, military aid to Ukraine combined with United Nations peacekeepers are also needed to remove Russia from Ukraine, he said.
“There is no simple solution.”