By Pavel Polityuk and Matthias Williams
KYIV (Reuters) – Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly condemned Russia massing troops near Ukraine’s borders on Tuesday and said Ottawa would take a decision at the appropriate time on supplying military hardware to Ukraine.
Speaking alongside Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba at a briefing during a visit to Kyiv, Joly said any new offensive by Russia would incur serious consequences.
Ukraine and its NATO allies have sounded the alarm as Russia massed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine’s borders in recent weeks in preparation for a possible new military offensive.
Russia has denied such plans but pressed the West for security guarantees, including a block on Ukraine joining the NATO alliance. Washington described some of Moscow’s demands as non-starters, while Ukraine has sought reassurances from allies that nothing would be decided without its input.
Canada, with a sizeable and politically influential population of Ukrainian descent, has taken a strong line with Russia since its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
“Canada is deeply concerned with the military build-up done by Russia at the Ukrainian borders and we’re extremely concerned also with the destabilising activities in and around Ukraine,” Joly said.
“We are united in our support to Ukraine and of course any incursion into Ukraine will result in serious consequences including very severe, coordinated sanctions on the part of allies.”
Asked about the prospect of sending military hardware to Ukraine, she said: “We’ve heard loud and clear the demands on the part of the Ukrainian government. Many of the officials here have reiterated this demand. We know that it is important to play our part in the context, and therefore we are looking at options and will take a decision in a timely manner.”
Ukraine has braced itself for a potential new assault from Russia while pushing for a diplomatic solution. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels to Kyiv on Wednesday.
“We have a lot of diplomacy, various visits, many telephone conversations, contacts, the purpose of which is to deter the Russian Federation from implementing its aggressive plans,” Kuleba said.
“And our conversation today with Melanie confirmed that we act as a united diplomatic front and together mobilize international support for Ukraine in this difficult situation. The situation is under control. I ask everyone not to panic.”
Canada has deployed special forces operators to Ukraine, Canada’s Global News reported, part of an effort by NATO allies to deter Russian aggression and to identify ways to assist the Ukrainian government.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Natalia Zinets and Matthias Williams; editing by Jonathan Oatis)