Canada is ready to commit a contingent of soldiers to the British Army’s ambitious program to turn Ukrainian civilians into fighting troops, CBC News has learned.
Outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to the training plan in mid-June during a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.
Up to 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers are expected to travel to the UK for basic and specialist military courses which last five weeks. The first batch of Ukrainian recruits arrived and training began in early July.
Three sources familiar with the matter but not authorized to speak publicly told CBC News that Canada intended to help the British-led effort. Defense Minister Anita Anand is expected to officially announce it today.
The plan amounts to the resumption of Operation Unifer, the long-running training mission that saw – until it was suspended last winter – more than 35,000 Ukrainian troops receive advanced combat instruction from Canadian soldiers. .
This mission, conducted on Ukrainian soil, was halted and troops withdrew from the Eastern European country in mid-February on the eve of the full-scale Russian invasion.
It involved about 200 soldiers and included a contingent. Two of the three sources said the latest initiative with the British “will involve roughly the same number”.
A third source was more specific saying the new program will involve three training teams of about 60 members each, plus additional command personnel.
The Ukrainian government has repeatedly pressed Canada to resume training in a third country, said diplomatic sources, who spoke separately to CBC News and were granted anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
The Liberal government has made the training mission, which began under the former Conservative government, a source of pride and has often been cited as proof of Canada’s commitment to Ukraine’s security.
Trudeau left the door open to join the British effort
Asked about Johnson’s training plan at the end of the NATO summit in June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau left the door open for participation.
“Canada will continue to look for opportunities to continue to support Ukraine in various ways,” he said. “We actively did howitzer training that we did in Latvia [and] we are also looking for other ways to be helpful.”
The prime minister was referring to the training that took place last spring after Canada donated four of the army’s M-777 155 millimeter howitzers to Ukraine.
Before full-scale war erupted in Ukraine, Britain separately helped train Ukrainian forces between 2015 and 2022 under the Operation Orbital banner, putting around 22,000 troops into their programme.
He also withdrew when Moscow launched its so-called special military operation to overthrow the Kyiv government.
When the UK inaugurated its new training program in early July, it invited its allies to participate. In addition to Canada’s advance, another unnamed Commonwealth country is expected to join the effort.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace visited one of the training areas after the arrival of the first recruits and welcomed the initiative.
“Using the world-class expertise of the British military, we will help Ukraine rebuild its forces and step up its resistance as it defends its country’s sovereignty and its right to choose its own future,” he said. said Wallace, quoted by British media.