Mr. Chair, on August 24, 1991, Ukraine declared to the world that it would no longer be part of the Soviet Union, it would seek its own independent and democratic future.
In the very early years of the country's independence, Ukraine had to make many tough decisions as it established its sovereignty.
Ukraine had to make some difficult decisions in establishing its sovereignty.
One of the most important choices for the Government of Ukraine was to rid the country of nuclear weapons and to accede to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Taken in the spirit of non-proliferation and disarmament, and contributing to global security, this decision was applauded by the world community.
In return, the Government of Ukraine sought guarantees in signing the Budapest memorandum on security assurances on December 5, 1994. This document governed the removal of weapons of mass destruction from Ukrainian territory in exchange for assurances from its partners and co-signatories the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia. The signatories committed to respecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.
They agreed that they would refrain from the threat and use of force. They guaranteed, also, that their weapons would never be used against Ukraine except in self-defence or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. They reaffirmed their commitment to seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance to Ukraine if it should become a victim of an act of aggression.
Russia, through its reckless and cynical policies, has broken its commitments. Instead of being a guarantor of Ukraine's security, it has become its biggest threat. In March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea illegally. Today it continues to maintain troops in eastern Ukraine and to provide weapons and support to insurgents there. Russia is determined to break up Ukraine.
Russia continues to conduct a relentless media campaign propagating falsehoods about the Ukrainian government and the political and economic reforms the country is trying to achieve.
This aggression is an attempt to undermine efforts by the government and the people of Ukraine to change direction towards democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Russia's complete disregard for basic international norms and its own commitments has necessitated a strong international response to assist Ukraine in defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
I am proud to say that Canada has stepped up. In response to a request from the Ukrainian government and in collaboration with international partners, Canada has provided non-lethal military equipment to the Government of Ukraine to address a number of the critical needs of Ukraine's forces. Specifically, these contributions, which include night-vision goggles, medical kits, a mobile field hospital, high-frequency radios and ordnance disposal equipment, enhance the capabilities of the Ukrainian armed forces in their fight to defend their country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Canada has also recently announced a significant military contribution to assist Ukraine in building the capacity of its armed forces. These initiatives are part of a whole-of-government effort to make sure we are providing the best possible support to our partners in Ukraine.
To this end, the departments of National Defence and Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development have worked together closely over the past year to deliver timely and effective support to Ukraine's security and defence forces, including through jointly delivered material assistance and direct collaboration on the development of the recently announced military training initiative at every stage.
In addition to training and equipment support, Canada is also working to build capacity and reform Ukraine's security institutions. Canada is contributing to the NATO Ukraine trust funds, with a focus on assisting Ukraine in developing its command, control, communications and computer capabilities.
Canada is also supporting efforts to help reform Ukraine's logistics systems and increase its interoperability with NATO. Military capacity-building programming to Ukraine includes the deployment of a Canadian security expert to the NATO liaison office in Ukraine, as well as military police training.
We do not stand alone in our efforts to support Ukraine's security. Through the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or OSCE, we are supporting efforts to ensure that the international community is aware of developments on the ground. Canada is a strong supporter of the OSCE's special monitoring mission, an unarmed civilian mission that aims to reduce tensions and foster stability and security.
We have deployed 22 Canadians who are experts in security, human rights, the rule of law and media to the monitoring mission. Canada has a long history of contributing to free and fair elections in Ukraine and the 2014 presidential and parliamentary elections were no exception. Through bilateral and OSCE elections observation missions, Canada sent some 300 Canadian observers to each election, contributing to Ukraine's efforts to elect officials in free, fair and democratic elections.
Unfortunately, Russian policies and actions have a destabilizing impact across the region. For this reason, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and International Development is contributing to the NATO-accredited centres of excellence in the Baltic states to help strengthen the regional framework in areas of cyber defence, energy security and strategic communications.
While Canada has done much to help Ukraine meet its security challenges, the needs of the country are still greater. The Government of Canada will continue to work with our Ukrainian and international partners to further Ukraine's security.
Canada will not rest, nor back away, when the security of Ukraine, a close friend and partner, continues to be threatened by a belligerent neighbour.