Canada extends Ukraine troop training mission to 2019

Ukrainian servicemen take part in a military drill in 2015 (AFP Photo/YURIY DYACHYSHYN)

Ottawa (AFP) - Canada will continue to provide weapons, tactical and survival training to Ukrainian troops through March 2019, officials announced Monday.

"We will continue to advance democracy, human rights and rule of law and military assistance to the end of March 2019," Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan told a press conference.

"This assistance is crucial for a sovereign, secure and stable Ukraine," he said, joined by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

The joint military training mission with Britain and the United States started in 2015, in response to a more assertive Russia's seizure of Crimea from Ukraine the year before.

Canada deployed 200 military trainers to Starychi, Kamyanets-Podilsky and other locations in western Ukraine.

As well, Canada has sent troops to Latvia and a navy frigate to the Black Sea to join NATO warships on patrol.

Asked what message these deployments say to Russia, Sajjan replied: "We are sending a strong message of deterrence."

In a statement, he said: "The government of Canada is committed to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people as they work to build a more secure, stable and prosperous country, and Canada continues to be at the forefront of the international community's response to Russian aggression in Ukraine."

Canada so far trained 3,200 Ukrainian soldiers, providing individual weapons training, marksmanship, tactical movement, explosive threat recognition, communication, survival in combat, and ethics training.

As well soldiers were taught combat first aid, and bomb disposal, while military police learned new investigative techniques.