Former Ukrainian president says war can still be avoided but urges accelerated Canadian aid

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Former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko says Canada should accelerate any plans to send military aid to his country, expressing hope for a peaceful solution even as Russian troops remain amassed at the border.

“We have a full, open and huge Russian aggression,” Poroshenko said in an interview airing Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.

“The expanding of the scale of this war, we can avoid that. We can use [diplomacy],” he told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.

Tensions in Ukraine have been running high for months, with an estimated 100,000 Russian troops near the shared border. Russia recently presented a list of demands to the United States and allied powers that include a permanent ban on Ukrainian membership in the NATO military alliance.

Poroshenko suggested that the way to dissuade any aggression by Russian President Vladimir Putin is to do the opposite: present a plan for Ukrainian and Georgian membership in NATO this summer.

WATCH | Russian ambassador discusses Ukraine crisis: 

Talks will ‘probably’ collapse should Russia not get what it wants in Ukraine crisis: Russian ambassador

If Russia does not get what it wants, Russian Ambassador to Canada Oleg Stepanov says diplomatic talks would “probably” collapse and Russia will be “forced to seek other counter measures to keep the balance of security interests in Europe untouched.” He denied Russia intends to invade Ukraine. 13:43

Russia denies that it is threatening Ukraine with invasion, saying it is looking to negotiate with the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization around a stable international security framework. Putin has said Russia feels threatened by NATO expansion in eastern Europe.

“I can officially assure you that Russia is not going to invade Ukraine. Russia doesn’t want to invade Ukraine,” Russia’s ambassador to Canada, Oleg Stepanov, told CBC’s Power & Politics on Friday.

Top diplomats from the U.S. and Russia met in Geneva on Friday, and while they did not reach an agreement to defuse the crisis, they did indicate that talks would continue.

“I think overall, Russia is turning this negotiation process into a blackmail and waste of time,” former Ukrainian ambassador to Canada Andriy Shevchenko said on Power & Politics.

Internal unity needed to face Russia, Poroshenko says

Poroshenko, a billionaire businessman, became president of Ukraine in 2014 after the country’s pro-Russia government led by Viktor Yanukovych was removed from office following popular protests.

During his presidency, Ukraine fought a drawn-out conflict with pro-Russian separatist forces in the Donbas region of the country’s east.

Poroshenko lost the 2019 election to Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s current president. The former president now faces charges of high treason — accused of involvement in coals sales that allegedly helped finance those separatist forces.

Poroshenko is hosted by then-prime minister Stephen Harper during a visit to Ottawa in September 2014. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

He denies the charges and calls them politically motivated. Poroshenko still leads his party, European Solidarity, as a representative in the Ukrainian parliament.

Despite the ongoing political conflict between Poroshenko and Zelensky, the former told Barton that internal unity was needed in the face of a Russian threat.

“This is the only thing which should unite the nation, including me and Zelensky,” he said.

‘Accelerate’ Canadian aid

Ukraine has pushed the international community, including Canada, for additional aid — especially military aid — for months. Canada, which has long been one of the country’s top international aid donors, also has some 200 troops in Ukraine providing training.

On Friday, the federal government announced a $120-million loan as a first instalment of assistance. Two sources told CBC News that Ottawa is also considering shipments of small arms and other military aid.

Poroshenko said on Sunday that Ukraine is counting on Canada, and he hoped aid would come “as soon as possible” and that Ottawa would “accelerate this process.”

He emphasized that he was thankful to Canada for its contributions and help to Ukraine so far, and in the eight years since the 2014 revolution. He also reiterated that Ukraine sees weapons shipments as purely defensive.

“The only purpose is to defend Ukraine. If Russia crosses our border, crosses our touch line and makes the very crazy decision to attack and kill Ukrainians, we should increase the price for that,” he said.

LISTEN | Ukrainian MP, Canadian living in Ukraine discuss crisis with Russia: 

13:45Ukrainian fears about Russian invasion threat

Ukrainian MP Volodymyr Ariev discusses a potential Russian invasion of his country, a Canadian in Kyiv talks about prepping for wartime and the CBC’s Murray Brewster breaks down what might happen if Russia does invade again. 13:45

You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service.



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