Canada buying sniper rifles for Ukraine from company in Winnipeg

Canada is buying gasoline and sniper rifles for Ukraine — part of the latest military assistance package announced Friday by Defence Minister Anita Anand at a meeting of allies in Europe.

Anand announced that Canada is purchasing up to 3.3 million litres of fuel through a NATO program. The announcement was made at the monthly gathering of countries helping to supply arms and equipment to the embattled Eastern European country, being held at a U.S. airbase in Ramstein, Germany.

The deal for fuel amounts to $34.6 million.

The Liberal government also will be buying 40 .50 caliber sniper rifles and ammunition from Prairie Gun Works in Winnipeg, and $2 million worth of radio sets — 16 in total — to be used in Leopard 2 tanks, eight of which were donated by the Canadian Army last winter.

Two tanks after firing (flames are seen)
A Spanish army Leopard 2 tank fires during the final phase of a NATO training exercise in Latvia on September 29, 2022. (Ints Kalnins/Reuters)

The other part of the aid package announced Friday involves providing Ukraine with modular floatation bridges which allow combat engineers to cross rivers or replace destroyed bridges.

Friday’s meeting was the first gathering of allies since a major leak of U.S. intelligence. One leaked intelligence document — reported on earlier this week by the Washington Post — said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has told NATO leaders privately that Canada will never meet the military alliance’s benchmark of two per cent of GDP for defence spending.

The leaked intelligence assessment, which the Post said bore the stamp of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, also said that allies have become skeptical of Canada’s capacity to meet its military commitments — particularly its promise to boost the NATO battle group in Latvia to a brigade.

In Washington on Thursday, a senior defence official speaking on background said the leaked classified documents aren’t likely to hamper ongoing efforts to support Ukraine.

“What we have heard from allies and partners is that … they’re determined — and we welcome this — not to allow any kind of negative information or spinning of negative information to undermine our unity and our focus and strength of purpose,” the official said.

The meeting also comes one day after NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made a surprise visit to Kyiv, his first since Russia’s full invasion in February 2022. 

He told reporters that Ukraine’s “rightful place” is in NATO.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right, greet each other after a joint press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine on April 20, 2023.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right, greet each other after a joint press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine on April 20, 2023. (Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press)

“Over time, our support will help to make this possible,” Stoltenberg added.

Following the meeting, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy renewed his push for long-range weapons, including modern combat aircraft such as the F-16.

“I think it is important to discuss the weapons that Ukraine has been waiting for so long,” Zelenskyy said. “In particular, this is training between missions of our pilots, appropriate long-range weapons, very specific [weapons], with very specific partners, with a very specific number.”

NATO members Poland and Slovakia have transferred MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine as Kyiv prepares a counter-offensive to retake territory occupied by Russia. The U.S., however, has been reluctant to sign off on the transfer of more sophisticated F-16s from its inventory.

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