Exclusive interview of Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine Larisa Galadza to the Interfax-Ukraine agency
Text: Valerie Proschenko, Oksana Gryshyna
Photo: Anton Skyba, The Globe and Mail
155-mm artillery shells are an urgent problem for Ukraine. Is Canada planning any further steps and is already working on speeding up production? And the next question is about training Ukrainian pilots on fighter jets.
Canada is working with all of its allies, its closest partners, and with Ukraine to understand what Ukraine’s needs are. We’re working together to understand how best to provide Ukraine with what it needs to achieve victory. With any request that Ukraine has, we work together to see how best to fill the need.
When it comes to ammunition, all of Ukraine’s friends are looking at ways to speed up that production. It is a global issue. When it comes to the other weapons Ukraine needs, Canada is doing its part. We’ve also been providing the cameras for UAVs, which are manufactured in Canada. These are valuable, both in terms of their cost, but also in terms of the information and images they can provide. Canada can give armored vehicles – 208 Senator armored vehicles, also made in Canada, that will transport Ukrainian soldiers safely and dependably. We know how badly this capability is needed in the areas of active combat. So I could go on about winter clothing, the NASAMs system we purchased, Leopard tanks, Howitzers, and so on, but I think Ukrainians know that Canada’s support has been meaningful.
About training, we have Operation UNIFIER. From 2015-2022 35,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been trained by the Canadian Armed Forces. And I’m very proud that UNIFIER has been adapted to the current needs. And we’re going to continue adapting until Ukraine has achieved victory. We are continuing to provide training to the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the U.K., Poland and other locations in Europe. Since the start of the invasion, we have trained more than 2,500 soldiers and that number grows daily.
And Justin Trudeau said that Canada is open to expanding the flight training program for Ukrainian military pilots
Canada is open to considering any request from Ukraine. What I do know, is that for the equipment we are providing, we are also providing the training and other aspects required to make sure the equipment is sustainable. On the Leopard tanks, we’re providing training to the tank crews. And knowing that once that equipment hits the front lines it is used very heavily, we are also providing Ukraine with maintenance contracts, spare parts, and even towing equipment — in case a tank gets stuck in the mud! We want to keep the equipment working effectively, so it’s a complex package. Not a piece of equipment, but a whole capability.
Recently, the Minister of Defense of Ukraine, Oleksiy Reznikov, announced the creation of a “ship coalition”. Is Canada planning to join?
It is difficult to talk about what we will do in the future because of sensitive work being carried out by defence ministries.
Canada has already provided Ukraine with over a billion dollars’ worth of military equipment. We are focusing on those things that we have, or that we can quickly purchase for Ukraine. And those things that match Ukraine’s needs.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin. What does Canada think about this?
Canada is a very strong supporter of the International Criminal Court, and all the work that it does in Ukraine and in prosecuting international crimes around the world. We provided funding to the court to help with the increased workload and increased demands as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We were very pleased to see the arrest warrant for President Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova. Why? Because it shows that the court can work quickly and that it has focused on a really important aspect of Russia’s war on Ukraine, and that impact on children. And absolutely, I strongly believe that there is a possibility to bring President Putin and everyone else who committed war crimes in Ukraine to accountability for what they’ve done.
The effect of the arrest warrant is on their ability to travel, on their reputation, and on their ability to participate in the international system. The arrest warrant is a kind of a net. It is a kind of stricture and a very strong sign that the International Criminal Court is working here in Ukraine, in The Hague, with international support from countries like Canada. And I expect that we’re going to see more from the ICC.
Do you really think that Putin can be held accountable?
And what about the crime of aggression? Is Canada involved in a coalition for the establishment of a Special Tribunal for the crime of aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine?
This is another very, very important question that Ukraine’s friends around the world that Canada wants to see move forward: prosecuting Russia for the crime of aggression. But the question is how best to do it. That’s why the “Core Group” was formed. And yes, Canada is a member of the “Core Group”. We are working with likeminded partners to figure out how to prosecute the crime of aggression, prosecute Russia for Russia’s aggression.
Does Canada support exactly a special tribunal, not a so-called “hybrid tribunal” or something else?
This is the question that is being worked on right now in the “Core Group”. Because how you put that tribunal together is very important. Remember, this hasn’t been done before. This crime has never been prosecuted. And when you’re doing something for the first time, it’s important to think it through and to get it right.
Canada was the first Western country to legislate the possibility of seizing sanctioned Russian assets for Ukraine’s reconstruction. What is going to be done next in this direction?
We have now seen our first case of the seizure of assets owned by Russians under sanctions. You’re right that Canada was actually the first country to introduce legislation to make this possible. And after introducing it, we seized assets of a Russian oligarch worth about $26 million and we are now pursuing their forfeiture. That’s our first case, but there are frozen assets totaling over $120 million, so more will follow, I’m certain.
We were the first country to introduce the legislation, and then the first country to seize and pursue the forfeiture of assets. Our like-minded partners around the world are watching us, and how it works and using that as an example to take the same kind of actions in their jurisdictions.
The G7 Hiroshima Summit is expected in May. Is Ukraine going to be the main subject of discussion during the meeting? Also, what can we expect from the NATO Summit in Vilnius?
These are two big events. And I am certain that Ukraine will be front and center on the agendas. The Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was in Kyiv a few weeks ago and as I understand, he invited President Volodymyr Zelensky to participate in the summit. I think that’s an important sign of the priority that Japan and all the G7 places on Ukraine.
The NATO Summit is also a very important place for discussion of the war, and discussion of NATO’s strategies. The importance of Ukraine’s security to the alliance will no doubt be top of the agenda.
Volodymyr Zelensky said that he expects from NATO member states at this Vilnius Summit “the appropriate steps towards Ukraine and security guarantees”. What do you think about this?
Security and confidence in their security is what will allow Ukrainians to return to the country, to return to their homes if they’re internally displaced, and to restart life where it has stopped. So understanding how that security will be provided is important. For President Zelensky this is a priority question.
I think it’s also obvious from the amount of support — military, financial, and humanitarian – from countries like Canada that we too want to help Ukraine achieve that level of security. I’m sure that the discussions at NATO will be part and a parcel of much broader conversations about what it will take to reconstruct Ukraine, to bring in the private sector investment that’s required, and to make sure that Ukrainians never have to experience invasion by Russia again.
What is Canada’s attitude toward the Chinese “peace plan” for Ukraine?
As I understand it, President Zelensky is willing to have a direct conversation with President Xi about peace in Ukraine. We will watch that closely if and when it happens, and will follow Ukraine’s lead.
But President Zelensky’s “peace formula” encompasses the elements of a sustainable and just peace. These are principles that Canada endorsed in the United Nations General Assembly Resolution in February. And we didn’t just endorse those principles. We also worked hard diplomatically to get as many countries in the world as possible to endorse those principles. We must not tire of reiterating them.
How many Ukrainians have already applied for Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET)? And when will the visa centers in Ukraine fully operate?
Over 600,000 Ukrainians have received visas to Canada under the CUAET. About 180,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada since January 2022. This is very strong take-up on the program. And, of course, Canadians are happy to be able to offer a place of shelter, relief, and security for Ukrainians, while they wait for the war to finish and decide what they’re going to do next.
The visa application center in Lviv is working to take biometric information. It is working constantly just on biometrics.
Russia’s presidency of the United Nations Security Council during April is a bad joke, as Ukrainian minister Kuleba said. Should the UN Security Council be reformed?
Canada has a very active diplomatic presence in the United Nations. And I would say among the most active when it comes to questions related to Ukraine. The international system that works for peace and security in the world is not perfect; how we improve it is a constant question.
The question of Russia’s presence on the Security Council must be approached from a legal, political, and moral angle. And I know that Ukraine is leading the charge on that. At present, there is no formal program of reform to the international architecture of peace and security. But I know that President Zelensky has raised that question early on in this war, that he is interested in convening in Ukraine a conference on precisely that question, after the war is over. Until then, we work within the system that we have.
In Canada’s opinion, is the admission of Russian and Belarusian athletes to the Olympic Games and other competitions under a “neutral” flag acceptable?
There was a statement by a group of nations that Canada has signed. That statement says that as long as there are fundamental issues and a lack of clarity and detail on how Russian and Belarusian athletes can participate “neutrally”, then we don’t think they should be allowed back into Olympic competition.
Which sectors of the economy are more interesting to Canadian businessmen?
Canadian investors have been interested especially in the areas of agriculture, finance, financial services, and energy, especially renewable energy. For example, the Canadian company Fairfax owns shares in Astarta and Ovostar Union. Another significant investment of Fairfax, in the financial sector – ARX, Colonnade Ukraine and other insurance companies. In the renewable energy sector, the most famous investment is TIU Canada.
The interest remains in those sectors. We’re also seeing an increase in questions about opportunities in defense, in construction, and in oil and gas exploration.
So there is a lot of interest right now, from businesses abroad, because they see that Ukraine is about to become a massive construction site. Businesses want to make money, and if they see they opportunity, they will go for it. Whether investors come to Ukraine or go somewhere else, is actually up to Ukraine. Ukraine needs to offer a favorable, attractive climate.
What problems were faced (such as TIU Canada), which of them remained/exacerbated during the war? What systemic reforms/decisions by the Ukrainian authorities are necessary to stimulate investment?
There are challenges that Ukraine needs to overcome to attract investors and business. The security situation is one, but we’re all working on that. The other major factor is the functioning judicial system. If Canadian companies are going to come to Ukraine, they’re going to want to know that their business interests are protected. And the best protection is a court system where any issues they have can be fairly, justly and clearly resolved. If I had to put my finger on one problem that needs to be solved before investors flood into the country, it’s the reform of the judicial system. I’m very happy to say that really important progress is being made. And even during the war! There’s movement forward. In the end, a properly functioning judicial system is going to serve all Ukrainians and all investors well.
What projects with Canadian investment suffered losses as a result of the war? What is the volume we are talking about at the moment?
Russia has damaged many facilities owned as part of Canadian investments. But I think that what strikes everyone more is the damage to the human capital, and that the employees of these companies are being conscripted or volunteering to go to the front and they are being wounded and they are getting killed. The million dollar building that was destroyed can be rebuilt. But the people can’t be brought back to life. Ukraine’s Canadian investors like Fairfax are feeling that impact of the war.
From a financial perspective, Canadian investors who have continued to operate during the war have done well, they have been profitable. It’s a really important sign to investors in Canada: that Ukraine is a place where you can come and invest and succeed.
Also, during the war, Canada and Ukraine have worked to modernize the Canada Ukraine free trade agreement that was signed in 2017. When President Zelensky came to Canada in 2019, it was decided that as soon as possible, the trade agreement would be modernized to include the financial sector and trade in services. Those negotiations are concluded. The final technical work is underway to update the trade agreement. This sends a very strong signal to Canadian business about the beneficial relationship that we have between the two countries.
You were recently in Kharkiv to see the projects implemented as part of the donor program PFRU. Tell us about these projects.
The Partnership Fund for a Resilient Ukraine (PFRU) unites five development partners (UK, US, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland) and it is co-led by the Government of Ukraine. PFRU supports projects in communities to increase their resilience. It’s through early recovery, investments that will allow the community to come back.
Recently in Kharkiv we visited two projects implemented within the framework of PFRU. One was mental health and psychosocial support project, where psychologists and social workers are working in mobile units to reach people in frontline communities. Those people need psychological support and through this project, the support goes to the people. This project was designed on the basis of a project that was done in Bucha, and it was very good to see how experience in one part of Ukraine is being improved based on experience and then shared in another part of the country.
The second project that we visited was a hospital in a deoccupied part of Kharkiv region. The project there was to replace all the windows because they had been blown out. The hospital was a center of resilience. During months of heavy fighting very nearby, they never stopped working. The hospital was the hospital for a surrounding community, and it remains a regional asset. Providing blast proof windows allows the people inside to continue their work safely, and it allows people who need medical assistance to go to the hospital and know they will be safe.
Tell us about the demining program. What exactly does it include? Is there a plan to expand the assistance?
Since the invasion we’ve already committed 35,5 million dollars to demining.
And that’s a range of activities with a range of partners. It includes significant amount of equipment for this because we understand they have a critical role to play. It also includes additional $2 million to the HALO trust.
The HALO trust (Hazardous Area Life-Support organization) is a very well-known international organization that does demining. They were already working in Ukraine before the full-scale invasion, and Canada was already supporting their work in eastern Ukraine. So they were here and quickly able to take on more projects. Ukraine is now the most mined country in the world. And if we continue at the rate of demining as today, it will be far too many years. It will be our grandchildren will still be demining the country! So the funding that we’re providing to train new deminers is really, really important.
We’re also providing larger equipment to help speed the process. And we’re working with our partners because this isn’t anything that we can do on our own. So Tetra Tech is an American company that we’re working with the HALO trust, our partners in the European Union, all of us working together to help also then dispose of the unexploded ordinance that is found to and to do that safely.
Finally, really important is teaching citizens. Ukrainian children, Ukrainian farmers must understand the signs, understand the hazards. Canada supports this mine action too.
The Government of Canada is financing the project “Supporting Governmental Reforms in Ukraine” (SURGe), the Ministry of Reconstruction has announced the start of work in the 5 regions most affected by Russian aggression. What exactly is planned as part of this part of the project?
Project “Supporting Governmental Reforms in Ukraine” (SURGe) is a program that has already been working for several years. In the frame of SURGe $27 million we can pay for experts to provide advice on public policy.
Recently an MoU was signed with SURGe and Minister Kubrakov. It says that we will work together to define a good way of supporting local communities in planning for their own recovery and reconstruction.
It sounds general, because the specifics will now be worked out. That search brings experts who can advise on how to solve problems. And they provide that recommendation based on best practices in the world, based on a very good knowledge of Ukraine and the Ukrainian context and was an urgency that matches the need.
What does Ukraine’s victory mean?
In the first instance, it’s the return of Ukraine’s territorial integrity – which means Russia is driven out of the territory. And in the second instance, victory is the consolidation of all the good things that Ukrainian society has done as a result of this invasion: the social cohesion, the energy for innovation, and the volunteerism that we see. The consolidation of all of that and the elimination of everything that degrades Ukrainian society from the inside, especially corruption.