A massive Canadian transport plane arrived in Kharkov in August carrying US$4.5 million worth of non-lethal military equipment[really?] to help Ukraine “protect its eastern border against Russian aggression.”
The equipment includes “helmets, ballistic eyewear, protective vests, first aid kits, tents, and sleeping bags,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement on Thursday.
Canada said it received the request from the Ukrainian government. “Ukraine has asked for this and once again we are delivering,” Defence Minister Rob Nicholson Nicholson said at the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton.
The flight marks the first in a series, and all of the items will be delivered by the CC-130J Hercules plane. Canadian military personnel accompanied the equipment to Ukraine.
The technology provided will “allow Ukrainian security and border authorities to better detect and track the movement of illicit goods and people,” according to Harper.
The news comes after Russia banned the imports of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, and dairy products from the 28 countries of the EU, the US, Canada, Norway, and Australia for one year.
Russia’s ban is set to cost Canadian pork farmers more than $500 million. But the Canadian government is continuing its current stance on the matter. “We will not be intimidated by these kinds of tactics,” Canadian Industry Minister James Moore said.
On Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen pledged that NATO will work with Ukraine on defense planning, as well as on how to reform its armed forces and institutions.
He also announced that NATO is planning joint exercises with Ukraine.The comments were made during a press conference in Kiev.
Rasmussen also mentioned that Russia has amassed 20,000 troops near the border and could be planning a ground invasion of its neighbor, mentioning that Russia “should not use peace-keeping as an excuse for war-making.”
In response, Moscow slammed NATO’s claims, calling them unsubstantiated.
“In Russia’s Ministry of Defense such statements only raise sympathy for the speakers of the Pentagon, the US State Department and NATO. It seems the people are serious, but they have to constantly improvise during their speeches to somehow add seriousness to their statements,” Ministry of Defense spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said.
Meanwhile the West blocked Moscow’s UN plea to reinstate ceasefire at MH17 crash site.
The UN Security Council failed to adopt a resolution on reinstating the ceasefire at the site of the Malaysian Airlines plane crash in eastern Ukraine after Russia’s draft was blocked by Western states.
“Unfortunately, some UNSC members have reacted in their usual way as they oppose any criticism of the Ukrainian leadership,” Churkin said, adding that Lithuania, the US, and Australia began proposing inappropriate amendments to the text.
“A few countries – such as Lithuania and the US – started to suggest amendments, saying that [Russia’s] draft lacks criticism towards the people they call ‘separatists’,” Churkin added.
The countries that rejected Russia’s draft resolution to the UNSC “are responsible for the endless bloodshed in the southeast of Ukraine” as they are indulging Kiev, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Moscow’s resolution did not concern the actions of the sides in the conflict, the Russian envoy to the UN said. It was rather dedicated to the announcement published on the website of the Ukrainian commission investigating the MH17 crash. According to that announcement, Kiev would not stick to the ceasefire, as international investigators had left the crash site.
As Churkin indicated, later on, the Ukrainian delegation to the UN informed the Security Council that this was not true, and the ceasefire is still in force.
Thus Russia submitted a document urging the Ukrainian authorities to publicly clarify the situation and calling on the sides of the conflict “to restrain from any actions that could violate the integrity” of the crash side.
Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin (Reuters/Lucas Jackson)
The plane was brought down on July 17 with the loss of 298 people in the restive Donetsk region, Ukraine’s east. The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling for an international investigation into the MH17 incident and demanded safe access to the site for investigators. Russia’s draft insisted the resolution should not be violated.
In the wake of the decision, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced a unilateral ceasefire in a 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) area around the site of the crash. However, shelling and fighting in the area has continued, hampering the experts’ work several times in the past weeks.
But on Thursday Kiev suspended the truce with self-defense forces at the crash site.
“The ceasefire in the plane crash zone, announced by the President of Ukraine at the request of international experts, which has been thoroughly observed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, will not be in place at the beginning of the second phase of the investigation,” the Ukrainian government said.
The government claims that the international mission has been halted because of “terrorists’ provocations” who “posed threats to the lives” of the recovery mission members.
On Friday, Kiev promised to renew the ceasefire in the 20 kilometer zone around the MH17 crash site, immediately after they receive a request from the international investigation group.
The suspension of the ceasefire in the MH17 crash area is a direct violation of the UN resolution, Vitaly Churkin stressed:
“The truce was approved by UN Security Council resolution 2166, thus it is a clear violation of the resolution and will have very serious consequences for international inspectors’ abilities to conduct the investigation when they decide to return to the area.”
Members of a group of international experts inspect wreckage at the site where the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine August 1, 2014. (Reuters)
Before the ceasefire was canceled, the Netherlands, who lead the international probe, announced it was halting the mission to recover victims and debris of the July 17 MH17 crash because of fighting between Ukrainian forces and rebels in the area.
The international investigating team arrived at the site days after the tragic incident, delayed for security reasons. Experts are expected to resume their efforts once the situation allows.
Currently, at least three areas containing the Boeing-777’s debris remain unexamined by the international mission, according to the Ukrainian government. The majority of experts will leave Ukraine until a decision on resuming the operation is made, it said in a statement.