Canada is being asked to renew its military training mission to Ukraine – a proposal that's taking on a whole new level of urgency as border tension ramps up with Russia.
Canada's deployment of 200 soldiers is up for renewal in March, Canada's CBC News reported.
Moscow seized three Ukrainian naval ships and their crews Sunday in waters off Russian-annexed Crimea. Tensions in the region – particularly over the Kerch Strait – have been building for months and aren't likely to dissipate soon, said Ukraine's ambassador to Canada in an interview with CBC News.
"All of these provocations by Russia, they are a good reason to reinforce what we already do," said Andriy Shevchenko. "We expect and hope Canada will renew its Operation Unifier, which is this wonderful training mission that Canada has in Ukraine."
Since being deployed by the previous Conservative government in the wake of Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, Canadian troops have trained almost 8,000 Ukrainian soldiers in advanced small combat team skills, bomb disposal, medical care and military policing.
The operation comes under the umbrella of the Multinational Joint Commission, which includes Canada, Ukraine, Britain and the United States. It is not a NATO mission, but its intention is to bring Ukrainian forces up to the standard of Western militaries.
Shevchenko suggested there is a political imperative to remaining engaged in his country because of its upcoming elections.
"Next year is going to be a very important year in Ukraine," he said. "We'll have our presidential election, our parliamentary election. I say it will be a workshop to learn how Russia is going to interfere in the politics of other countries."
And countering that interference "is the kind of experience we would like to share with our Western friends."
The not-so-subtle message is that Canada, with a federal election of its own happening next year, would benefit from staying involved in Ukraine, Senior Defence Writer for CBC News Murray Brewster writes.
The Liberal government has not said whether it will renew the training mission. It will be subjected to a standard policy review this winter.
Canada's top military commander, Gen. Jonathan Vance, told CBC Radio's The House on Saturday that events surrounding the Kerch Strait and the subsequent imposition of martial law in 10 Ukrainian provinces (known as oblasts) "won't have an immediate impact on our mission."
Increased tension with Russia, however, is something policymakers will note.
"It will certainly be taken into consideration as the government looks to the future with any of its engagements in Ukraine," Vance said.
"It may very well change the dynamic at the government level in Ukraine. They're approaching an election, the imposition of martial law – all of that will have an impact in Ukraine."