Article by: Alya Shandra
On November 28, the first shipment of Canadian non-lethal military aid to Ukraine arrived at Boryspil International airport. As per TSN, the deputy minister of defense Petro Mehed has assured that all the aid will be delivered to the soldiers and that this first shipment will be delivered to the military divisions that are undergoing recovery. In particular, a part of the first shipment will be given to the battalion Kyivska Rus.
The rest of the aid will arrive by sea in early 2015. The full batch of aid will dress about 30 000 soldiers and includes 30 000 winter jackets, 10 000 pairs of army boots, and 4 500 pairs of gloves. According to Canada’s Defense Minsiter Rob Nicholson, the total amount of aid is worth $11 mn and will be used for equipment and training, including: $5 mn for protective gear, including surplus Canadian Forces cold-weather gear such as jackets, hats and gloves, $3 mn for explosives disposal equipment, $1 mn for communications equipment, $1 mn for night and thermal vision equipment, plus binoculars, $1 mn for medical training, including a mobile field hospital.
This is the second time Canada sends non-lethal military aid to Ukraine’s armed forces battling the Russian regular army and Russian-backed proxies in Donbas; the first shipment happened in August 2014. It has been rumored that this shipment had not reached its final destination in the amount that it was supposed, and could have been partially stolen by corrupt officials. Reports of soldiers being under (or even un-) supplied are ubiquitous in Ukraine, and it is generally recognized that volunteers supplying the army are doing the government’s job. Even the Ministry of Defense itself admitted that the volunteers supply the army better than the generals. The way that patriotic Ukrainians are crowdfuding the army by volunteer efforts is impressive, but also frustrating, since maintaining an army should be the function of the state.
However, there is hope for change, and it comes from yet again the volunteers. Ukrainian and Canadian volunteers have launched a petition where they demand that all the steps of the aid’s journey from jet to soldier be publicized and monitored, and that volunteers will be involved in distributing the military gear. In the case of failure to comply, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry is threatened with a journalistic investigation, as stated in the petition.
This petition immediately fell on fertile ground, since a a group of nine volunteers has been accepted to officially work in the procurement department of the Ukrainian MOD on November 18, as TSN reported. The group consists of leaders of volunteer formations supplying the army.
On their page in Facebook, the group wrote that a plan has been worked out in the Canadian embassy. According to volunteer David Braun,the Prime Minister of Canada has asked the distribution of this shipment of aid to be coordinated by representatives of this aforementioned Council of Volunteers and the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress. Two representatives from this Council together with Canadians will be observing the unloading of the jet and will accompany the cargo to a depot in Kyiv, after which inventory will follow and distribution plans will be formed. After that, volunteers that supply particular divisions will be engaged to make sure that the aid will get to the places it needs to reach in its full volume, and will not “dissipate” on the way. Photos, videos, and other proof will be gathered and provided to the Canadian partners. According to Mr.Braun, this outline will be presented to the American embassy, and that only by building transparent relations based on trust can Ukraine hope for increased assistance from donors.
Volunteers have shown to Ukrainian people how to effectively report on expenses and procurement, and there is all reason to hope that they will be able to do this before foreign donors. Hopefully, this is the road by which Ukraine’s corrupt ministries will be reformed.