Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA -- Ukraine's deputy foreign minister is warning the West to remember who it is dealing with in Russia, amid the stampede to co-operate in the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
Vadym Prystaiko, who was until last year Kyiv's ambassador to Canada, says his country is concerned that President Vladimir Putin's regime is using its intervention in Syria and the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris as a way to cool international outrage over the annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine.
Since conceding that a Russian airliner was downed in the Sinai by a terrorist bomb, Moscow has unleashed a series of punishing air strikes against Raqqa, the Islamic State's headquarters in Syria.
Washington has softened its language towards Russia in recent days and Prystaiko -- in an interview with The Canadian Press -- said that worries the government in Ukraine.
On Wednesday President Barack Obama raised the prospect of co-operation with Russia if the latest strikes signal a shift in strategy.
The Kremlin potentially has a lot to gain from better relations, including the easing of European sanctions, which could expire in January unless renewed by the international community.
The war in eastern Ukraine has largely been a stalemate, with Russian-backed rebels and government forces occasionally exchanging fire.
Prystaiko said Russia's strategy is to "get back into the club of cool kids and, if possible, to get back to the bipolar world and into the club (of nations) that are making decisions.
"And respect; this notion of respect and Russia is getting off its knees, getting back to business; it's kicking everyone's butt. And we'll again show our people that we are respected."
At the G20 summit in Turkey, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met Putin for the first time and told him to leave Ukraine alone. It was an echo of Stephen Harper's dramatic summit performance last year where he told the Russian leader he'd shake his hand, but demanded Moscow get out of Ukraine.
Prystaiko says he was pleased to see Trudeau take the opportunity to press the case.
Ukraine, which has been pushing both the U.S. and Canada to supply it with weapons, has just received a shipment of counter-battery radar, which will help its forces pinpoint and destroy artillery, the biggest source of casualties in the conflict.
Prystaiko said he hopes the Trudeau government will follow through with a plan to put his country on the automatic firearms country control list, which is the first step in selling arms. The Global Affairs Department is still consulting on the matter, but has received opposition from Amnesty International Canada and Project Ploughshares.
Both human rights groups pointed to cases of police brutality in Ukraine in 2013 and reminded the federal government the law forbids selling weapons to countries where there is the threat of them being used against the civilian population.
Prystaiko said the brutality examples date back to the government of former president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted over his abuse of authority.
"We could not tolerate anymore, what the previous government did," Prystaiko said. "Remember the history. It was a peaceful protest and then it turned violent when the police started killing kids, students in the square. This government is not in place anymore."
He said significant reforms are underway in the justice system and to "deny weapons to Ukraine to defend itself is wrong."