Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 23.07.2018
Canada's Minister of International Development, Marie-Claude Bibeau, went to the battlefront near occupied Horlivka where Russia is invading Europe. She met with Lieutenant-General Serhiy Nayev, commander of the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
On July 22, Minister Bibeau went to the same checkpoint, Mayorsk, that the President of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid, visited on May 24. Mayorsk is north-west of the Russian-occupied city of Horlivka in Donetsk region, Ukraine. The checkpoint is only a couple of hundred metres from Russian soldiers and their terrorist proxies.
Accompanying Minister Bibeau were Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Roman Waschuk, and Borys Wrzesnewskyj, Member of Parliament and Chair of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group. Also in attendance on the visit to the battlefront was Ukraine’s Ambassador to Canada, Andriy Shevchenko, and Pablo Mateu, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Representative in Ukraine.
The JFO commander, Lt.-Gen. Nayev, noted the contribution of the Government of Canada in supporting and assisting in the development of the modern Armed Forces of Ukraine.
General Nayev presented to the Canadian delegation video from surveillance cameras that recorded violations of the ceasefire by Russian occupation troops. A JFO video press release gave a few glimpses of these violations. One frame was labelled “01 July 2018 Enemy used small arms against JF positions near VODIANE.” JF is the Joint Forces Operation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Vodiane is a village east of Mariupol and 6 kilometres away from the coast of the Sea of Azov. Ukrainian defensive fortifications are less than 1000 metres away from the trenches of the Russian invaders at Vodiane. Another frame of the JFO video presentation was labelled “01 July 2018 Enemy used small arms against JF positions near NOVOSELIVKA DRUHA.” Novoselivka Druha is a village about half-way between the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk and the Russian-occupied city of Horlivka, but on the free Ukraine side of the battlefront. A close-up frame of the video presentation was labelled “LUHANSKE area 8 May 2018 120 mm mortar/122 artillery shelling.” Luhanske is a village in the “Svitlodarsk Bulge,” 17 kilometres north-west of Russian-occupied Debaltseve. Weapons with a barrel diameter greater than 100 millimetres are proscribed by the Minsk Agreement of 11 February 2015. Russia is violating that accord by not withdrawing these weapons 25 kilometres away from the ‘contact line.’ Russia is violating the numerous Minsk Agreement ceasefires by firing these weapons against Ukrainian defenders and civilians.
It is very strange that Canada sent its Minister of International Development to the front line where Russia is invading Ukraine, and not its Minister of Foreign Affairs. Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland, speaks Ukrainian fluently and has been engaged with Ukraine personally since the late 1980s.
There was a mis-match in communication between the Ukrainians and the Canadians. The JFO commander was talking about Canada’s “support and solidarity with the people of Ukraine in the fight against the Russian aggressor” (JFO press release). The Canadian minister was talking about “the importance of facilitating access for aid workers to safely reach the population in need” (tweet by Marie-Claude Bibeau).
Ukraine cannot guarantee the safe passage of aid workers because Crimea and part of Donbas are beyond the government’s control: they are in the hands of the invaders from Russia. When Ukraine wins the war against Russia, Crimea and Donbas will be liberated and there will no longer be a “population in need.” Ukraine has appealed to Canada to provide lethal weapons. A committee of the House of Commons of the Parliament of Canada, the Standing Committee on National Defence, recommended that the Government of Canada provide lethal weapons to Ukraine to protect its sovereignty from Russian aggression. The Liberal government refused its own committee’s recommendation and Ukraine’s appeal, without explanation. Canada has $9.5 million dollars worth of military equipment originally intended to help Kurdish forces in their fight against Daesh in Iraq. It is sitting idle in Canada, and the opposition Conservative party says that it would send those arms to Ukraine instead.
It is very strange that Canada was willing to give lethal weapons to Kurdistan, which is not a country, but refuses to give those weapons to Ukraine, which is a country and is fighting on its own territory against a foreign invader. Not to mention that Ukraine is a friend of Canada and the vanguard of Canada’s national defence against the brutal regime in Russia that is at war with the West.
Even though Canada missed the opportunity to highlight Russia’s war against Ukraine, it was good that a Canadian government minister at last visited the battlefront where Putin is invading Europe. It was symbolically powerful to see Lt.-Gen. Serhiy Nayev and Canadian Minister of International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau walking together to the checkpoint in Mayorsk where Muscovy aggression meets Western resistance.