Joly pledges financial aid to Ukraine as she watches threat of Russian invasion
Canada’s foreign minister landed in Kyiv on Monday promising additional economic aid to help keep Ukraine’s government afloat in the face of uncertainty caused by the threat of a Russian invasion.
Mélanie Joly met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal yesterday. She said her visit was to show Canada’s unwavering solidarity in the current crisis.
In a subsequent interview with Radio Canada, Joly said the federal government is still firmly committed to seeing Ukraine join NATO – despite Russia’s insistence that extending NATO membership Western military alliance to Ukraine would cross one of its so-called red lines.
“I [will] tell them that, first, Canada’s position has not changed. We believe Ukraine should be able to join NATO,” Joly said in French when asked what his message would be to officials in Kyiv over the next two days.
“At the same time, there must be democratic reforms here, reforms of the judicial system here in Ukraine.”
The German and French foreign ministers are also meeting the government in Kyiv this week. The German Annalena Baerbock and the French Jean-Yves Le Drian seek to relaunch the “Normandy format” talks with four (Germany, Russia, Ukraine and France).
Those negotiations have so far failed to bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed proxies have been fighting Ukrainian forces for seven years.
The Normandy format was set up to support the implementation of the 2015 Minsk agreements negotiated by Germany and France. The deals were meant to end Russia’s separatist proxy war in Ukraine’s Donbass region, which erupted after Moscow annexed Crimea to Ukraine in 2014.
A bipartisan delegation of US senators also arrived in Ukraine on Monday to show support.
Moscow has positioned more than 100,000 troops on three sides of Ukraine and kept them combat-ready, while denying that it was planning an invasion.
The government of Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that NATO end its eastward expansion and deny membership in the alliance to both Ukraine and Georgia, another former republic in the soviet era. He also insisted that Western military deployments in Eastern Europe be brought back to 1997 levels.
The United States and NATO have rejected those demands, but say they are ready to discuss other confidence-building measures, including a renewed treaty limiting missile deployments in Europe.
A massive cyberattack – believed to have been launched by Russia’s ally Belarus – hit Ukrainian government computers on Friday with a message warning Ukrainians to “be afraid and expect the worst”.
A costly conflict
The current crisis has put a strain on Ukraine’s finances.
Last month, the World Bank approved a $428 million (€300 million) loan to help Ukraine offset economic shocks caused by COVID-19.
In addition, international financial institutions granted a loan of 285 million dollars (200 million euros) to help develop transport infrastructure across Ukraine. This is in addition to a $700 million loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), approved in November, to help the country implement reforms.
Canada has been one of Ukraine’s largest bilateral contributors since 2014, spending $245 million on the country’s constitutional, judicial and security reforms.
Joly said Monday his government recognizes that more needs to be done.
“We are ready to provide loans to Ukraine,” she said. “That has been the case in the past.
“We are ready to talk about it once and offer financial resources to Ukraine because we know that the Russian threat creates a form of economic instability, and this has an impact on state revenues and the ability of the Ukrainian government to finance his approach.”
Whether Canada intends to supply defensive weapons to Ukraine to deal with a possible invasion is still under discussion within the government, Joly added.
Britain’s defense secretary announced on Monday that the UK had started delivering anti-tank weapons to help Ukraine defend itself.
“We have taken the decision to provide Ukraine with anti-armour light defensive weapons systems,” said Ben Wallace, who told the British Parliament that a small number of British personnel would provide training to the Ukrainians for a period of short period.
Joly said after leaving Ukraine she would travel to Paris and Brussels for further talks with allies.