Although Ukraine has seen a “significant breakthrough” in support from allies, more help is needed from countries like Canada, according to one of Ukraine’s deputy prime ministers, Olga Stefanishyna.
When Stefanishyna, who is deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, first landed in Canada, the first thing she says she noticed was the amount of light that surrounded her.
“This is not what we have,” she told The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson. “We’ve gotten used to living in darkness.”
Stefanishyna, who is visiting Canada to speak with politicians about the current security situation and needs in Ukraine at the Halifax International Security Forum, said around 40 per cent of Ukraine’s critical infrastructure has been damaged by Russia.
However, despite what Stefanishyna described as mass torturing and missile attacks across the nation, “the major spirit in Ukraine is there is no way to surrender.”
“There’s only (the) way to victory and this leads to a permanent failure of the Russian Federation,” she said.
Despite high spirits, the suffering and losses Ukraine has endured have been extremely “serious” and there are more ways Canada and other allies can help, she said.
Supporting restoration of the electricity grid is needed to help bring back power to Ukraine, according to Stefanishyna.
“We encourage big companies, the companies operating the electricity market, to mobilize their efforts to provide us with everything which is needed,” she said.
The more generators the better, she added.
“We need generators,” said Stefanishyna, noting they will help “ensure the stability of functioning the state itself, because connection, electricity and energy are the basis of functioning in the country.”
On Friday, Ukraine’s electricity grid chief warned of hours-long power outages, and the state of the country’s energy and power facilities are fuelling fears of what will come this winter.
The freezing temperatures are also putting additional pressure on energy networks.
Kyiv‘s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, has said the city has been facing a “huge deficit in electricity,” with around 1.5 to two million people, or about half of the city’s population, periodically swathed in darkness as authorities switch electricity from one district to another.
Helping to restore damaged infrastructure is also crucial moving forward, according to Stefanishyna.
“It’s really important that we are restoring back the infrastructure in a very fast and operative way,” she said, but added rebuilding will be impossible without a “strong mobilization” from allies.
Above all, it’s especially important for allies to support Ukraine to “close the sky” by providing more anti-air defence systems, Stefanishyna said, noting Ukraine remains “extremely worried” about the threat of a potential nuclear strike.
“We understand that this nuclear threat will be hanging over all of us, regardless of whether we react strongly or not,” she said. “There will be such a threat so long as Putin is in power, as long as the war is there, as long as Russia has any hunger for aggression, whether in Ukraine or Poland.”
For Stefanishyna and other politicians across Ukraine, their ultimate goal is to “survive and save our people,” she said, calling for more aid.
“So if some allies still think they have done everything they could, we assure you that you didn’t because the war is still lasting, people are still dying and families are losing their loved ones,” Stefanishyna added.
On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Canada to help on a long-term peace plan with Russia in a pre-recorded video address to the Halifax International Security Forum, where military officials from Canada and around the world, including Stefanishyna, are gathered this weekend.
The peace plan will require agreement on 10 different areas including the withdrawal of Russian forces, the release of prisoners and food and energy security, according to Zelenskyy.
Ukraine’s president went on to encourage countries to “choose which item you can help with,” noting, “I believe that Canada, which strongly supports us, will also choose one of the peace formula items for itself and show all strands of leadership.”
Stefanishyna also said Ukraine hopes allies “will be sticking together with us.”
For NATO, an alliance that Canada has been part of since it was created in 1949, Russia remains one of the biggest threats, according to Adm. Rob Bauer, current chair of NATO’s military committee.
Although the alliance has yet to see evidence of Russia intending to cross into NATO countries, “it’s important to be prepared for it,” he told The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson.
“We are ready to defend ourselves and that readiness has gone up,” he said. “The message to Russia is that we are not part of the war in Ukraine.”
When it comes to the missile blast in Poland, Bauer said NATO believes “Russia is still to be blamed for this because if they didn’t start the war on Feb. 25, this would never have happened.”
In a situation like this, it is important for NATO to know the facts before making a decision on how to respond, according to Bauer.
“It’s the fog of the war. What you need to do when you’re driving around in fog is to reduce the speed a little bit to make sure that you’re not hitting anything unintentionally,” he said.
“I think that’s what the alliance has done. Not jump to conclusions. Look, investigate, find out the facts, and then based on those facts, make a decision.”
Making sure Ukraine survives and succeeds is vital for the alliance, Bauer said, adding any victory for Russia would not be the end of hostilities from that country — it would only bring more.
“It’s not the end of instability. It’s the beginning of more instability,” he said.
“It is therefore very important that Ukraine does not lose this war with Russia.”
— With files from The Associated Press