National News

Canada, Poland to unveil Ukraine help package

By Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - Canada and Poland will announce a joint package to assist Ukraine when Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird visits Warsaw next week.

Marcin Bosacki, the Polish ambassador to Canada, says in an interview with The Canadian Press that the assistance will include measures to strengthen Ukraine's democratic institutions.

Harper met today with Bosacki and envoys from Ukraine, Georgia, Latvia, Estonia and the Czech Republic before condemning Russia's actions against Ukraine as "aggressive, militaristic and imperialistic" and a grave threat to world peace.

Harper also announced Baird was being dispatched to talk with allies in eastern Europe before moving on to the Middle East.

Baird begins his visit next week in Prague before moving on to Slovakia, Poland, Latvia and Estonia.

Bosacki says once in Warsaw, Baird will announce a major Canadian-Polish initiative to assist the Ukraine government.

"We are preparing joint projects, Polish-Canadian projects, in Ukraine in the field of good governance, democracy promotion and institutional strengthening of democratic institutions," Bosacki said in an interview.

"I can't go into specifics. These will be bilateral projects that will be announced in Warsaw."

Bosacki said Harper's leadership on the Russian crisis is greatly appreciated by his government, and the prime minister's views on the threats posed by Russian President Vladimir Putin are widely shared.

"We share a lot of common views about the situation on the ground. We think there are a number of provocateurs and foreign armed men capturing buildings in smaller and bigger towns in eastern Ukraine," he said.

As pro-Russian groups occupied buildings in 10 cities in eastern Ukraine in recent days, Harper used his harshest words yet against what he called "Russian provocateurs sent by the Putin regime."

It's time to rally the world against the danger posed by Putin, Harper said at the photo-op event with ambassadors ahead of their meeting.

"I know this is of great concern to our NATO allies in the region, but it should be a great concern to all of us," Harper said.

"When a major power acts in a way that is so clearly aggressive, militaristic and imperialistic, this represents a significant threat to the peace and stability of the world and it's time we all recognized the depth and the seriousness of that threat."

Baird echoed the prime minister in blaming Russia for the latest events, scoffing: "I don't know who the Russian federation thinks it's kidding when it tries to pretend that it has nothing to do with them."

"There are very clear and disconcerting parallels between what is happening in eastern Ukraine and events leading up to Russia's illegal invasion and annexation of Crimea," he continued, urging Russia to back down.

Harper and Baird both said Canada is prepared to impose stronger sanctions against Putin's regime.

"But as I say, the most important thing we need to do is to rally all of our allies throughout the western world and throughout the greater global community to understand that peace and stability is being threatened here in a way that has not been threatened since the end of the Cold War," said Harper.

Putin is fighting history and will lose, he added.

"We also know from history that anybody who makes it their historical mission to turn the clock back, as Mr. Putin has determined to do, that those kinds of missions always fail in the end. But we will do all in our power to make it fail."

Bosacki said Putin has turned back the clock even further in Europe. He said Putin's aggression is "changing the paradigm and nature of international relations, and not only in our region. It's coming back to a traditional 19th century power play and pursuing of national interests — whatever it takes instead of dealing in international institutions and according to international law."

Harper also paid tribute to the people of Ukraine, saying their determination to secure their freedom and independence has no limit.

Bosacki reiterated his call for more NATO troops in eastern Europe, but he declined to say what military options for the alliance were discussed with Harper in the meeting.

"Putin's doctrine, in practice, makes us all the more sure that the vacuum of power is seen by current Russian authorities as weakness and opportunity," he said.

"Poland is entirely self sufficient and safe. We are spending one of the highest percentages of GDP on defence, but we are member of an alliance."

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