Wrzesnewskyj Calls for Lethal Arms for Ukraine

MPs J. Maloney, B. Wrzesnewsky, K. Duncan, A. Virani and P. Fonseca on Aug. 19

Yuri Bilinsky and Marco Levytsky, NP-UN.

Etobicoke-Centre MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj called for the provision of lethal defensive weapons for Ukraine, said a Magnitsky Act will be passed by the House of Commons soon, during his speech at Ukraine’s 26th Independence Day celebrations in Centennial Park in Toronto, August 19.

Providing Ukraine with lethal defensive weapons is becoming increasingly important, considering Vladimir Putin’s declining popularity ratings in Russia, Wrzesnewskyj told New Pathway – Ukrainian News (NP -UN).

“We should learn from the past: when such regimes become less popular, they often start wars. Now that Putin’s rating is beginning to drop, we are once again hearing from him that Ukraine is not a real state, that Kyiv is a Russian city. Putin’s intent is to disassemble the Ukrainian state and to occupy Ukraine. Ukraine has to be prepared for an armada of Russian tanks. For this, Ukraine needs proper military equipment. The first step would be putting Ukraine into Canada’s Automatic Firearms Country Control List. I call on the members of Ukrainian community to encourage their local MPs to be aware of this. The Liberal MPs that were on stage today (Arif Virani, James Maloney, Kirsty Duncan and Peter Fonseca) are all very familiar with this file and are supportive. But we need to make sure that we have support across the country.”

While Wrzesnewskyj may be publicly calling for the provision of lethal defensive weapons, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland avoided a direct answer when that question was posed to her by NP-UN during her meeting with the Ukrainian community in Edmonton. August 11. Earlier this year, the U.S. Congress passed a bill calling for the provision of lethal defensive weapons for Ukraine and President Donald Trump signed it.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said August 24 during a visit to Ukraine that the Trump administration was “actively reviewing” whether to provide lethal defensive weapons to the war-torn country, reported Voice of America.

When asked whether Russia might see such a move as a threat, Mattis responded, “Defensive weapons are not provocative unless you’re an aggressor.”

Canada’s position has consistently been that we must act in concert with our allies.

Asked by NP-UN when the Magnitsky Act may be passed, Wrzesnewskyj replied that the Magnitsky Law (authored by Saskatchewan Senator Raynell Andreychuk and passed by Canada’s Senate on April 11) will get House of Commons approval by the end of this year

“We have made it clear that it’s a priority for us,” he said.

“To make sure that it gets to the committee stage we had special hearings right at the end of the past session. The Chair of Foreign affairs committee came in especially from the overseas to have those hearings, so it’s past the committee stage. Now it’s scheduling for debates in the House. And we expect that by the end of the year Magnitsky legislation will be on the books in Canada,” added Wrzesnewskyj.

His comments echo what Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said at a meeting with the Ukrainian community in Edmonton a week earlier. She predicted passage in the fall.

The bill is inspired by the case of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died while exposing government officials involved in a $230 million tax corruption scheme. U.S. anti-Putin campaigner Bill Browder, who had hired Magnitsky as the lawyer for his Moscow-based Hermitage Capital Management hedge fund in 2005, has led the international effort to sanction human-rights abusers.

Similar legislation has already been adopted in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

Wrzesnewskyj said that this legislation is just the first step in the process of bringing to account those individuals who were involved in the fraud that the Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky unveiled and also those who have been involved in the extrajudicial arrests and abduction of Ukrainian citizens from the territory of Ukraine into Russia.

“We are preparing a list of jailors, prosecutors, torturers, judges in those show trials to make sure that we don’t just pass the legislation, but that that legislation begins to take real effect. We have an official list of all the Ukrainians from Crimea and the occupied eastern territories who have been transported into Russia. And we are compiling a list of those who have been involved in their abductions, torture and jailing. A lot of those Russian judges and prosecutors are very well off and hiding their money in the West. Putin’s judges and prosecutors will be targeted,” he noted.

Both a Magnitsky Act and the provision of lethal aid to Ukraine are among the policy positions put out by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

When asked by NP-UN how close Ukraine is to receiving defensive weapons from Western countries, Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada, Andriy Shevchenko, replied: “This question has been raised since 2014 and I believe that it is a grave injustice that Ukraine still does not have enough weapons to defend itself. Borys Wrzesnewskyj said today that now Ukraine is a shield for the free world from the Russian aggression. We are in constant negotiations with our partners, including Canada, about that and I am confident that Ukraine will have access to modern armaments. The Canadian government does not even need to listen to us about Ukraine’s need for defensive weapons – the Canadian military, who have been training Ukrainian soldiers for the past two years, have a thorough knowledge of our situation. They can perfectly explain why we need those weapons.”