Bells will ring at 5:15 for a vote at 5:45. If we finish the second group at 5:15, we'll maybe try to take five minutes then. We'll have to go in camera for that. Why don't we try to do that.
Turning to our witnesses today, I want to welcome Matthew Levin, director general, Europe and Eurasia bureau. Welcome, sir. I believe you'll be the first speaker.
Then we have David Metcalfe, director general, Europe, Middle East and Maghreb, development. Welcome, Dave.
Then we have Tamara Guttman, director general of the stabilization and reconstruction task force. Welcome, Tamara. As I said, I had a chance to meet you while you were ambassador in Budapest. It's great to have you back here in Canada with us.
Also with us is Mr. Bennett, the ambassador of the office of religious freedom. It's good to have you back. You were here just a short time ago, and it's great to have you here as well. You'll be the third speaker.
We'll get started because we are short of time.
Mr. Levin, we'll start with you. The floor is yours.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all members of the committee for the invitation to be here with you today to talk about the rapidly evolving situation with Ukraine, which, as I think you and all committee members know, is a country of profound importance to Canada.
You've already introduced the officials who will be speaking. I won't go over that.
I'll begin by making an opening statement, and then give the floor to, first, Dave Metcalfe and then Ambassador Bennett.
Also accompanying us today are Tamara Guttman who is the director general of the stabilization and reconstruction task force, also known as START, at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, and Mike MacDonald who is the director general for operational management and coordination at Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Ms. Guttman and Mr. MacDonald won't be making statements, but they will be available to answer members' questions following the presentations.
Canada and the people of Ukraine have long had a special relationship reflecting the important place of the Canadian Ukrainian community in Canada. Since 1991, when Ukrainians freed themselves from Soviet rule, a special relationship has shaped Canada's leading role in supporting a newly independent Ukraine. Canada was the first western country to recognize Ukraine's independence. Canadians had high hopes that Ukraine would soon be on the path to democracy, stability, and economic prosperity.
To help Ukraine on that journey, the Canadian government has invested over $410 million in development assistance. This year, we will spend another $20 million in supporting democracy and encouraging economic growth.
Canadian parliamentarians have also been deeply committed to helping Ukraine. Many members of Parliament and senators have gone to Ukraine as election monitors, as members of parliamentary delegations, or have travelled there independently. Today's meeting and the take-note debate also taking place today reflect the depth of Parliament's ongoing engagement with Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Canadian diaspora has been an invaluable source of support for Canada's engagement with Ukraine. Some 1.3 million Canadians are of Ukrainian heritage. Their unique blend of expertise, dedication, and passion has helped Canada calibrate our policies so that what we do in Ukraine can make the most difference to the most people.
But despite all these investments by Canadians over the past 22 years, Ukraine's post-independence road has been rocky. Enthusiasm about the Orange Revolution of 2004 gave way to disappointment. Under the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych, Ukrainian democracy slid further backwards. President Viktor Yanukovych jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Constitutional amendments concentrated power in his own hands at the expense of the prime minister and Parliament.
Last November, however, Ukraine seemed to be about to turn a corner. President Yanukovych had announced that he would sign an association agreement and free trade agreement with the European Union. Canada strongly encouraged Ukraine to sign. We saw this as a crucial opportunity for Ukraine to consolidate its European identity, implement vital reforms, and entrench democracy and the rule of law.
As part of that deal, Ms. Tymoshenko would have left prison for medical treatment in Germany. The Canadian government had repeatedly called for her to be given appropriate medical treatment. Canada sent a team of Canadian doctors to assess her condition. Canadian officials met with her daughter and her lawyer. A Canadian embassy official attended every single day of her trial hearings. A delegation of Canadian parliamentarians meanwhile travelled to Kharkiv to try to meet personally with Ms. Tymoshenko in jail.
But just one week before President Yanukovych was to sign the association agreement with the European Union, he abruptly changed his mind and turned toward Russia, accepting a Russian financial assistance package. By a significant majority, Ukrainians wanted their president to turn their country westward toward Europe.
The result was massive protests. In Kyiv, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Ukrainians took to the streets.
The Yanukovych government responded with violence. It passed repressive laws. Protestors were killed, kidnapped, threatened, and beaten. Priests were intimidated. In one terrible week, at least 82 Ukrainians were killed, and hundreds more were wounded.
In response to this appalling disregard for human life, Canada demonstrated firm and resolute leadership. Canada spoke out clearly, consistently, and forcefully to support democracy, the rule of law, and the right to peaceful protest in Ukraine. We forcefully denounced the murder of protesters on the Maidan, and the other abuses perpetrated by the Yanukovych regime.
personally travelled to Kiev in November to show Canada's support for the protesters. The minister also dispatched Ambassador Bennett, Canada's ambassador for religious freedom, who is here with us today.
Canada also took concrete action against those responsible for abuses.
After the first civilians were killed, the announced, alongside , that the Ukrainian officials responsible for violence and repression would no longer be welcome in Canada.
Last week, after the latest appalling wave of violence, announced an expanded travel ban to prevent senior members of the Ukrainian government and other individuals who bore political responsibility for the violence from travelling to Canada. In addition, the announced that Canada would impose economic sanctions on the Yanukovych regime and its supporters.
Alongside these punitive measures, Canada directed millions of dollars to projects in Ukraine in support of civil society, pro-democracy actors, and an independent media. We helped religious organizations that were under threat. We provided emergency medical treatment and legal support to the protesters.
Fortunately, the attempt by President Yanukovych to stamp out democracy failed. Ordinary Ukrainians, demonstrating remarkable bravery and resilience, defeated oppression and regained control over their destiny. President Yanukovych's authority collapsed. He fled Kiev, abandoning his luxurious residences along with his presidency.
In dramatic sessions over last weekend, Parliament voted to restore the 2004 Constitution, to hold new elections this May, and to release Ms. Tymoshenko. Parliament has removed the government ministers and the heads of the security services who were responsible for repression and violence. It has also voted to impeach Viktor Yanukovych. A warrant has now been issued for his arrest.
Canada was privileged to be able to stand alongside the Ukrainian people during their time of trial. We welcome the appointment of an interim government and the release of Yulia Tymoshenko.
We will work closely with the new government, the opposition, and the leaders of the Maidan protest movement to help build a united, democratic, and prosperous Ukraine that enjoys the fruits of good governance and the rule of law. Canada calls on all parties to support Ukrainian national unity and to respect its territorial integrity.
We continue to encourage Ukraine to sign an association agreement and free trade agreement with the European Union. We support a substantial IMF program for Ukraine that is accompanied by meaningful reform. We are calibrating our $20 million of annual development programming to support Ukraine's restored democracy and to encourage economic growth.
As a symbol of the government's and his personal commitment, will arrive in Kiev again tomorrow to meet the new government and opposition leaders and to honour those who gave their lives for a democratic Ukraine.
I would now like to give the floor to Dave Metcalfe, Director General for Development for Europe and the Middle East, who will talk more about Canada’s program to support democracy and foster economic growth in Ukraine.
Mr. Chair, thank you again for inviting officials from the department to this hearing. Once our formal presentations are finished, my colleagues and I would be very happy to take any questions that you and members have.
Mr. Chair and honourable members, thank you for the opportunity to discuss Canada’s development assistance program and its role in responding to Ukraine’s current situation.
Through Canada’s development assistance program, we continue, as we have done for two decades, to support economic and democratic transition in Ukraine. Our support takes a long-term view, but sometimes requires short-term actions.
In the immediate term, as Matthew mentioned, our responses have included emergency medical treatment for those injured in the civil unrest. Canada has provided assistance to the Ukrainian Red Cross to train 500 first aid volunteers and to establish first aid points to treat the wounded. Canada was also quick to respond with legal assistance to democracy activists charged by the previous government.
Looking forward, we need to maintain our focus on the upcoming presidential election and Kiev municipal elections on May 25. After several questionable election processes in recent years, Ukrainians demand and deserve a clean election, with a level playing field, with real choice, and with real competition. We're working with like-minded countries and domestic partners to support Ukraine in addressing such key election process issues as adequate ballot security and fraud prevention.
Canada has been a leading promoter of free and fair elections in Ukraine. For example, through our support of the largest ever elections monitoring mission for the 2012 parliamentary elections, there were 500 Canadian observers. Working closely with their international partners, Canadian observers were indispensable in identifying electoral fraud and misuse of public resources. We know what to look for the next time around.
Free elections, an independent judiciary, a strong civil society, and a free media are all essential components of an effective democracy in which accountable and transparent decision-making is the norm and in which individuals and rights are respected and safeguarded. All of these things have come under attack in Ukraine, and Canada has responded.
Canada is working hard to support reform-minded judges and lawyers and to improve the access of regular Ukrainian citizens to justice. Together with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE, Canada will train judges in how to apply European human rights law in their courtrooms. A new project will help Ukraine to roll out legal aid to Ukraine's most vulnerable people so that they too can have access to the justice system.
As you know, some of Ukraine's independent media outlets have been under attack during the past few weeks. Through a recently approved project, Canada will support local journalists to produce investigative reporting for distribution via social media and original TV stations. We're currently examining other possibilities to support free media.
Looking forward a bit further, but not much further, it's clear that Ukraine will require support for the difficult economic transition it will need to make. With our international partners, we will be working with the IMF and other international financial institutions to support Ukraine when it makes that commitment to reform. Already, through the development assistance program we're funding IMF technical assistance to Ukraine to assist with modernizing banking regulations and monetary policy.
I'd like to close by highlighting Canada's long commitment to Ukrainians across all regions. Through our development activities, we engage with Ukrainian citizens, civil society organizations, farmers, businesses, and public officials across all regions in Ukraine, east, west, and south. We bring them in touch with Canadian approaches to local governance, citizen consultation, accountability, small business, and democracy. Through our programming we facilitate communication and understanding between people from these different regions and strive to help them achieve an effective, inclusive, transparent, and accountable rule.
I'd be pleased to answer any questions regarding DFATD's development and assistance to the Ukraine.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, vice-chairs, and distinguished members of the committee. It's an honour to appear again before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.
Today I'll speak on the activities of the office of religious freedom in advancing religious freedom in Ukraine, as well as our efforts to improve the overall situation there.
My travels to Kiev this past month exposed me first-hand to Ukraine's situation, especially the situation affecting a number of the churches. During my short stay, two overriding themes came to the fore.
Churches play an incredibly important role in advancing peaceful dialogue and act as agents of change in Ukraine, but their ability to act freely has been under threat in recent months. My meeting with his Beatitude Patriarch Sviatoslav, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, provided a particularly salient example of this. He described in detail the Yanukovych government's attempts to intimidate the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and how they threatened to remove that church's ability to operate as a legally valid religious organization, merely because of their presence on the Euromaidan.
Patriarch Sviatoslav told me how his clergy and church-related organizations, such as the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv had faced threat after threat from the Ukrainian security services, and how President Yanukovych had ignored the patriarch's attempts to engage in dialogue.
We feared that this situation would only continue to spiral if we did not take action. We were especially concerned for the normalization of church-state relations in Ukraine, given the role that the churches and other faith communities play in Ukrainian society.
Our office has moved quickly to meet with external stakeholders and departmental contacts to discuss avenues of engagement throughout Ukraine, east and west. We are involved in the Ukraine task force that consists of both our development and foreign affairs colleagues, and we have taken positive steps toward developing programming through consultations.
We also hosted a productive strategic discussion with Ukrainian Canadian organizations to identify how to focus this programming so we can maximize its impact on the ground.
Additionally, we have consulted with Polish NGOs who actively operate in Ukraine, offer regional expertise, and will be valuable partners as our programming moves forward.
I should note that I recently came back from meetings in Washington, D.C., many of which focused on the situation in Ukraine and various work that is being done by certain members of the NGO community there.
In closing, I would like to highlight again the urgent opportunity presented to us now. People's most basic rights, including religious freedom, need to be guaranteed. I'm confident that the department and our office can move forward in developing a robust strategy and contribute to the democratic transition in Ukraine where the churches and other faith communities will play an important role.
Thank you for the opportunity to present again before the committee, Mr. Chair. I look forward to the committee's questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, for inviting us here to speak today.
I'd like to say a few words about the Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce so you know where we're coming from.
The chamber is a privately led initiative whose purpose is to facilitate trade and investment relations between Ukraine and Canada by organizing and sponsoring trade missions, seminars, and trade conferences, in addition to offering access to specific areas of business expertise and consulting resources to the business communities both in Canada and Ukraine.
I would like to mention to Mr. Goldring that the Ukrainian shale gas reserves are about third in Europe, at about 42 trillion cubic feet, which is quite substantial. Companies like Chevron, Exxon, and Shell are working on production trading agreements right now, which is like mortgaging the resources to do things.
I would like to talk today more or less about the economic and financial requirements of provinces in Ukraine.
First of all, I draw your attention to the terms of the accession of Ukraine to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as a non-nuclear state. As you know, it was signed in December 1994 in Budapest by President Clinton, President Yeltsin, and Prime Minister Major. By that agreement the important thing is that these three countries have all guaranteed Ukraine economic freedom and not mixing in Ukrainian economic affairs.
Now as you see and probably heard a few days ago, Russia has again blocked the export of pork from Ukraine to Russia. Before, many other exports were blocked. Obviously Canada needs to remind all three of them, Russia, the U.S.A., and the U.K., what they have signed, and what guarantees they have given to Ukraine. I wish Canada would really press that issue.
Russia is also a member of the WTO now and needs to live by its obligations. Canada again needs to take a strong stand on this issue. The Russians cannot just do whatever they wish in Ukraine.
Second, essentially Ukraine now has pressed the reset button and is beginning the very difficult task of restructuring its government and government agencies. As an attempt to streamline these bodies to fit western norms, Canada can play a pivotal role in providing guidance. This guidance can take the form of sending consultants and advisers to work with the ministries and various government agencies to reform the policy and develop new policies. Hands-on commitment from Canada is needed here.
One of the reasons Yushchenko's government failed after the Orange Revolution was that they really had no advisers and no consultants helping them along the way. Let's not forget Ukraine has been under the Soviet system for many years, and unfortunately does not have as many specialists in these areas as we might think.
Third, we need a plan of financial support, something maybe of the nature of the Marshall plan is definitely required for Ukraine. We need an immediate intervention of western partners such as the EU, the U.S., Canada, and the International Monetary Fund.
Ukraine has been basically raped by the former regime of Mr. Yanukovych, and it's bankrupt. The economy is collapsing, and the currency is in free fall. For example, today it closed at 10.5 hryvnias to a dollar. Two weeks ago it was roughly at eight hryvnias to the dollar.
The incoming government estimates that Ukraine will require about $30 billion to $35 billion in financial aid, and certainly this assistance needs to be tied to clear and agreed reforms. The Ukrainian economy needs to be modernized to become competitive. This aid will also assist Ukraine in surviving the continuous Russian blockade and economic retaliation, especially in the energy sector.
Canada needs to be an ambassador and a visible financial participant in this plan.
Ukraine has about $2 billion in external bonds coming in, in the next couple of years. I believe half of it is to be paid to the IMF. The IMF needs to restructure this debt as soon as possible.
On the support for an economic strategy, in an effort to strengthen the Ukrainian economy, we ask the Canadian government to consider establishing a think tank or advisory board to advise the Ukrainian government going forward on necessary economic reforms. We have organizations such as CIDA active in Ukraine, but we feel that CIDA might need to move also into other areas besides the civic areas. It needs to move into areas of small and medium business development. This will help develop the middle class in Ukraine which right now is almost non-existent. You have oligarchs and you have a lot of poor people.
We have talked to CIDA. We have talked with them now for about a year or a year and a half and there was supposed to be a call for proposals to develop this kind of program for small and medium business development, but so far it has not been done. I think it's time to do it now and as quickly as possible.
The Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce could be involved. We have over 110 business specialists as members of our organization. One-third of them do business now in Canada and in Ukraine, so they know both sides of the picture and they could be quite helpful in developing this program jointly with CIDA.
Last but not least, ladies and gentlemen, I have walked on the Euromaidan quite a few times. I have been to the barricades, and I have seen these people. They were ready and as you know a lot of them died for a free and democratic Ukraine.
Let's not allow Russia to buy Ukraine again for $15 billion as they almost did and suppress all of these people of goodwill that are fighting for freedom.
Thank you very much.
The Ukrainian people have paid an extraordinary price for their freedom. They paid a price in human lives in favour of their own inalienable rights. It is the responsibility of the new authorities to ensure that they justify that confidence the people in Maidan entrust in them.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress urges the new authorities of Ukraine to consult with civil society leadership as they move forward. We underline that in the coming days, weeks and months, we will see the historic course of Ukraine be determined. The establishment of a new government is only the beginning of the process of building a democratic and free country and much difficult work and many challenges lie ahead.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Ukrainian Canadian community stand ready to provide support to the people of Ukraine at this critical juncture in their history.
I understand that the previous speakers have given us a lot of background, so I'd like to be quite concrete here in some of the things I have to say. I have about 12 recommendations on what can be done to help build Ukraine.
The first one is I believe there is a need to create a government that will be inclusive and acceptable to the vast majority of Ukrainians, which responds to Mr. Goldring's point earlier and to others. There will be a need to immediately stabilize the political unrest in Crimea. There will be a need to normalize the relations with Russia. Ukraine does $30 billion a year of trade with Russia, and $40 billion a year with the EU, and it's not an either/or. Frankly, the fact that the Kremlin would close its door on Ukrainian exports when Ukraine indicated that it wanted to sign a deal with the EU is equivalent to the Americans stopping all the goods being exported at our border when the signed the trade agreement with the EU. It makes no sense.
We believe that the tax system in Ukraine needs to be reformed. There needs to be some progressivity in the tax system. Right now, the largest source of direct financial investment in Ukraine is Cyprus, a tax haven that people use to funnel money and siphon money from the state and from their own enterprises to avoid the payment of taxes. In 2012, the last year for which I have statistics, it's in the order of magnitude of $40 billion.
The new authorities will need to find the funds to ensure that the public sector can continue to be paid. We're talking about nurses, doctors, teachers, military, armed forces, and the police. That's good operating practice. One, it's important for providing peace, order and good government as we like to say here in Canada, but it's also very important in terms of putting an end to the endemic corruption we've seen where you can't get health care unless you pay a bribe, and the traffic police will stop you and they'll let you go if you pay a bribe. This is definitely an area that needs to be targeted.
Ukraine needs to deal with corruption. It's widespread and we need to assist them in dealing with it quickly and strategically. The priority areas for that would be the judiciary and the oligarchs, but also the top-to-bottom approach where no one is outside of the scope of the law.
On land reform, Ukraine still has a moratorium on the purchase of agricultural land, and they have to deal very carefully with how that situation is dealt with in the future. It's looked at by many as a possible source of revenue.
Mr. Yanukovych, on a trip in the third week of December, made a deal with the Chinese to lease out long term 5% of the best black earth soil in the world for a very long period of time. That's what we have to avoid, that they're actually mortgaging their future for immediate economic gain.
On privatization, there should be no rush to privatize. The last time this was done, there were many corrupt deals. Especially now in a period of financial pressure, there could be a tendency to not receive the best value for strategic assets.
We believe there needs to be a concrete path for not only signing the association agreement but also long term for Ukraine's EU accession once it has strengthened its agricultural and industrial sectors. There also needs to be a period of national reconciliation. It's very difficult, and we've all seen the images on the streets in the last number of days and months. Ukrainians will need to band together to build on this national project.
Finally, on technical assistance, we've spoken with the transitional authorities in Ukraine. They've indicated to us that the needs are great. The senior ranks of the public service in Ukraine were stacked with cronies and people who were not fit to hold the jobs that they were entrusted. People in the economic departments do not know what they are doing. They really do need help in a number of areas. Some of the areas I would suggest where Canada could provide some very significant assistance would be in things like developing sound fiscal monetary policy, agrarian reform, training of senior civil servants, police training. Today they have disbanded the Berkut, the SWAT police, and put in place a police force that has the values and ethics the people deserve and that is there to actually represent and protect the people.
Finally, in the long term what can Canada do? I would agree with what my colleague Mr. Potoczny has said on the point of an international assistance package. Other things would be the signing of a Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement, because I think trade is one of the best guarantors of a better future for our two countries; a liberalization of our visa regime between our countries; and to continue in the short term to provide humanitarian and much-needed medical assistance.
Gentlemen, thank you so much for being here and for providing your comments and sharing your knowledge.
I should say, Mr. Potoczny, that your representative in Alberta, Vitaliy Milentyev, is my cousin, and he has been keeping me informed of what's going on. I just wanted to thank him for that.
We all understand what's going on. I just learned, for example, that Russian MPs have been sent to Crimea and are talking to TV channels about expedited Russian citizenship, and this type of interference.
Russia is not going to go away. Should Canada be playing a role as a middle power to somehow bring Russia into the fold with the EU so that we can create, once and for all, a free and democratic country, but with support and without posing a threat to Russia at the same time? In other words, involve them and the EU, in everybody's best interests, to have, once and for all, as I said, this free and democratic country that is able to function with the European Union and still maintain ties with an economic partner such as Russia. If that's the case, should we be making more of an effort as a country to try to bring this together?
We don't want this to turn into a geopolitical battle or a battleground between the west and Russia. We can't have that. It's a question that has been on my mind in the last few days and I'm glad I'm here so I can ask you that.
I would say that negotiating with all the parties to the problem is always a good solution.
I'm just not sure if Russia is ready to negotiate, because, as you said, Russia is not going away. I'm glad that people like the Russian ambassador to Canada yesterday on TV said, “This is not even on our minds, entering into Ukraine.” At the same time, as you said, MPs from the Russian Duma are going there to sort of give passports to Ukrainians. This goes back to the Georgian play as they did over there. Suddenly it's, “We have a whole bunch of Russian citizens so we have to protect them,” or “We came in only to protect them.”
Yes, if you can somehow convince them, but I'm not sure that they are convincible. I would be very careful how you negotiate with them. If Canada can somehow be that ambassador and bring the three sides, including the European Union, together, I would be definitely for it.
I would just keep on telling everybody, that includes the U.S. and Russia, that they have signed an agreement; they have put their signatures on it, so stick to it. Don't play games, just stick to the agreement you have signed.
Definitely, Ukraine has huge potential in energy. Ukraine has, as I said, the third largest reserves of shale gas in Europe. Ukraine has huge potential of regular natural gas in the Black Sea and Azov Sea. The problem always was, and I hope it goes away now, that they've talked about the potential but never have done anything about it, for 20 years. I go to these conferences on energy in Ukraine every year and the ministers talk about the potential, for 20 years now, but nobody has done anything. The main reason is all the ministers, including President Yanukovych, always wanted a piece of the action in every project that was going to be developed, and if they did not get what they wanted, nothing happened.
Even now when Shell, Chevron, and Exxon have signed production-sharing agreements with Ukraine, if you look very carefully at who is in these production-sharing agreements, it's usually the Ukrainian government on one side, the oil company on the other side, and then you always find a small company in between, which is there for 5%, 7%, 8%. These are actually companies related directly to Yanukovych and his family and friends. This is the main reason nothing has been done: they are always negotiating, "I need 10%, I need 15%, I need whatever per cent to let go.”
I hope that now, finally, this new incoming government will take very seriously that part of Ukrainian business, because really, if Ukraine develops the resources they have, they're free from Russia for the major problem they have, which is energy. Then actually Russia will be dependent on Ukraine because they still have to ship their product through Ukraine. At this point, unfortunately, when you buy 70% of your energy supplies from one country, and it is Russia, as you have seen before, they can turn off that tap, especially when it happens for some reason in the winter, and then you have no choice but to do whatever they ask you to do.
I would say this is the main reason, corruption, and basically not allowing companies to work freely on developing these resources.
I want to take a moment, if I may, because I'm concerned about some of the things that were highlighted just a few moments ago in testimony.
I think it's important for the committee and for Canadians who may be watching this to know that Canada has been very involved with Ukraine for quite a number of years. They are a country of focus for us with our development dollars. I just want to highlight some of the projects that we have ongoing in Ukraine right now.
Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology is working there with micro, small, and medium-size enterprises. The project is designed to benefit 14,000 students over its course. A lot of that money is being dedicated to helping women grow businesses.
I also want to highlight a project by Mennonite Economic Development Associates, a project that is aiming to strengthen the capacity of 5,000 smallholder farms in the regions of the Crimea and Zaporizhzhia.
Another project they have is for 6,887 small horticultural farmers, to help them improve their technical expertise.
Another project they have is with 3,000 dairy farmers in two districts of Ukraine, to improve the quantity and quality of the milk they produce.
In another one, they have 3,234 dairy farmers now introducing new feeding and pasture management techniques, milk storage and processing best practices, and other technologies to help them grow their businesses.
I would hate to have Canadians think that we have not been active. I have many projects that I could read into the record, but I just want to ensure that Canadians know that we have not abandoned Ukraine by any stretch of the imagination. Those projects are ongoing, and we look forward to the time when we can be putting other projects into Ukraine with the partners with whom we work.
Thank you for appearing here today, gentlemen.
First, I want to express our deepest sorrow and condolences for those patriots who lost their lives or were badly injured, and for their families and friends as well. It was truly an example that sometimes the price of democracy, unfortunately, is patriotic lives. They are truly heroes of the Maidan, and I'm sure they're going to be recognized as that forever.
It's good to hear, Taras, your encouragement for linguistic inclusiveness, because when I was there at Euromaidan in December, one of the things I noted very importantly, having been in Ukraine since the Orange Revolution and every election since, is that one of the difficulties seems to be this linguistic divide. To see Russians speaking and Ukrainians speaking—maybe not in even numbers, but being represented there at the Euromaidan, standing together—bodes well possibly for the future of the country. It's good to see that.
The second observation I would make here is on the gas reserves. My understanding, and maybe you could comment on it, is that you can put huge reserves, but what does that equate to? Do they have a number on it as far as its value is concerned?
I've heard that Russian Gazprom funds environmentalists who are standing against the development of the shale gas. Is that an actuality? That certainly can tie things up. It sounds to me as though it's Russian Gazprom that's financing them, because it's competition. If they can stop the gas from being developed, that would certainly serve its purpose.
I really believe that asset either could be mortgaged now or they could invite some of the other countries to give bridge funding. It could be not so much giving money to the country, but it could be bridge funding on the basis of that potential reserve.
Could you comment on that?
Before we touch on that one, I'm just going to comment. It all is together, because it ties in with the trade and the desire to get back to free trade discussions with Canada. It's all economics. One of the things that certainly was also very evident to me when I was there was that there wasn't the desire to shut the border to Russia, because as you correctly identified, one-third of the country's trade is with Russia. They want to continue the trade with Europe and continue the trade with the rest of the world, so it's not a matter of turning their back on Russia; it's a matter of having the nationhood right to trade with whomever they please.
I've rolled that all into probably two, three or four questions, but if you could handle it—
Maybe quickly on the gas, definitely there are rumours—I have no proof—that Gazprom was financing all these environmentalists to cause some problems. I noticed that in eastern Ukraine when Shell was signing the deal with the Ukrainian government, there were very few complaints about the environment, because that was a very tightly controlled area of Yanukovych and his group. They basically just told them to sign and not to ask any questions.
In western Ukraine, on the other side, where Chevron was signing the agreement, it was delayed a couple of times by a month or two or three, and there were quite a few environmental groups that were sort of fighting the signing. Obviously, Yanukovych did not have enough power and pull in western Ukraine to just tell them to sign it.
There has been that rumour. I can't confirm whether it was Gazprom that financed it or not.
On gas, definitely there are numbers you can put on these reserves. All these companies that are signing these deals are big companies. They know what they're getting into. Each of these deals is in the range of $10 billion, so these are huge deals. If Chevron signs a deal for $10 billion, it obviously has done enough studies, because it is committing on paper to putting that amount into developing the field, which is eventually going to be split, country-company, in this production-sharing agreement. That's what they like.
One thing Yanukovych and his group did was to pass legislation on production-sharing agreements, which is a very big thing, because in Ukraine before there were funny structures but no production-sharing agreements. He has done it, maybe thinking he would be a partner in all of this, so he wanted to be protected more than anybody else, but he has done a very good job on that.