National Newswatch

Ottawa is warning that Canadians who decide to fight for Russia in Ukraine could face severe consequences, even as it acknowledges for the first time uncertainties about whether it is legal to bear arms for the Ukrainian side.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland delivered the warning to anyone contemplating joining the Russian military invasion of Ukraine on Thursday as she announced more Canadian sanctions on Moscow and support for Kyiv in response to that attack.

Asked at a news conference whether Canadians who pick up arms for Russia would be prosecuted, Freeland said: “We are very clear that this war is illegal. And Canada will take a very appropriately severe view of anyone who is fighting this war.”

Yet federal ministers appeared less confident about the legality of fighting for Ukraine, whose government appealed last weekend for foreign volunteers to join an “international brigade” to help defend the country from Russia.

Numerous Canadians have since said they plan to answer the call to arms, with some having already flown overseas.

Appearing alongside Freeland, Defence Minister Anita Anand told reporters that while she understood the desire that many Canadians have to bear arms for Ukraine, “the legalities of the situation … are indeterminant at this time.”

The federal government had previously avoided directly addressing the legality of Canadians fighting in Ukraine, or whether it supports those who want to do so. Federal ministers instead couched the issue as a matter of personal risk.

That stood in stark contrast to the United Kingdom and Australia, wh

The Canadian Press
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