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Exclusive: Ukrainian general wants Canada’s 83,000 decommissioned rockets

A Ukrainian military leader is asking Canada to hand over tens of thousands of rockets that are awaiting demolition at a Saskatchewan military base.

In an exclusive interview with Global News, Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov urged the government to let Ukraine have the decommissioned CRV7 rockets.

Doing so would help Ukraine fend off Russian forces and save taxpayers the cost of destroying them, said Lt. Gen. Budanov, chief of the Ukrainian defence ministry’s intelligence directorate.

“We hope it will be a win-win situation,” he said.

More than 83,000 CRV7 ground attack rockets are warehoused at Canadian Forces Ammunition Depot Dundurn, south of Saskatoon.

While Canada no longer has any use for them, and has selected a private contractor to demolish them, Ukraine says it urgently needs them as its supplies of munitions diminish.

Lt. Gen. Budanov said the CRV7s would be used both in Ukrainian attack helicopters and ground launchers to target Russian tanks and artillery.

Ukraine has been discussing the issue with Canada but is still awaiting a decision, he said.

Canadian officials said they were looking into the request, but cautioned the CRV7s are decades old and could have become unstable, rendering them dangerous to handle and transport.

The Ukrainians argue they are in a dire predicament and are willing to assume the risks. They said they are accustomed to handling older munitions like the CRV7s.

“We have no concerns,” Lt. Gen. Budanov said.

Two years after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his disastrous invasion, Ukraine is desperately trying to replenish its military arsenal, particularly with munitions.

With neither side holding superiority in the air, the conflict has largely become an artillery battle and the Ukrainians have been scouring the world for whatever supplies they can find.

They believe that about 8,000 of the Canadian rockets are in pristine condition and that some are still fitted with warheads.

Those rockets that are no longer functional will be stripped of their parts for use in Ukraine’s drone program, the officials said.

“We need a lot of equipment, both ammunition, munitions in general, artillery munitions — lots of types of equipment,” Lt. Gen. Budanov said through an interpreter.

A Canadian military spokesperson acknowledged that 83,303 rockets — most of them tubes with rocket motors but no warheads — were awaiting disposal by a contractor.

Aside from concerns about whether they could be safely airlifted, giving them to Ukraine would mean breaking the contract with the disposal company, which has been building a special facility for the job.

Experts canvassed by Global News said rocket propellent had a limited lifespan and could become unstable after so many years.

But since the CRV7s use a solid fuel, they may still be safe, provided they had been stored properly and not exposed to moisture or contamination.

The issue arose in Ottawa on Friday, when the Conservatives said the Canadian military was sitting on the stockpile of rockets.

“Instead of making Canadians pay millions of dollars to decommission these weapons, common sense Conservatives are calling on the Trudeau government to give these weapons to Ukraine who can use them in the defence of their sovereignty,” the party said in a statement.

The Liberals accused Opposition leader Pierre Poilievre of “trying to cover up his weak stance on Ukraine by distracting Canadians.”

Defence Minister Bill Blair’s spokesperson said the government was “pursuing testing to ensure that this equipment is operationally effective and safe to transport to Ukraine before any potential donation.”

Ukrainian officials were disappointed to see the issue become politicized.

“Please send it to us as quickly as possible,” said the Ukrainian colonel who leads the team preparing to take possession of the CRV7s. He spoke on the condition he would not be named.

“We desperately need any type of ammunition we can get.”

The Canadian Rocket Vehicle, or CRV7, was manufactured by Winnipeg-based Bristol Aerospace and became the NATO standard.

“The power behind the CRV7 is the propellant,” Magellan Aerospace, which took over Bristol, said on its website. “CRV7 is longer range, faster time to target, and superior accuracy.”

Although Canada used CRV7s on aircraft like CF18s, Lt. Gen. Budanov said Ukraine had ground launchers capable of firing them.

Lt. Gen. Budanov, whose wife is recovering after she was allegedly poisoned by Russia, said the rockets would be used as the equivalent of field artillery.

Canadian veterans were working with Ukraine to help with the project, he added.

Asked if he was concerned that Ukraine’s allies were losing interest in the conflict after two years, he said, “It’s not a TV show, to be interested or not. It’s war.”

The Canadian government has committed more than $2.4 billion in military assistance to Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion on Feb. 24 2022.

That includes missiles as well as ammunition for small arms, artillery and battle tanks. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised Ukraine “unwavering support.”

But at a news conference in December, President Voldomyr Zelensky acknowledged his forces were running low of artillery shells.

That is where Canada’s CRV7s come in.

In 2021, the Canadian Armed Forces sought bidders for a contract to “collect, transport, destroy, demilitarize, recycle and dispose of” the CRV7s.

“The entire inventory of rocket motors was shelf-life expired and declared surplus in 2000,” the military said at the time.

“It was removed from the DND/CAF serviceable inventory in 2005 and made available for disposal by destruction.”

There are three types of rockets, according to the contract details: those fully intact and still packaged in their original shipping tube and boxes; scrap motors; and inert dummies.

A Canadian advisor to the Ukrainian military said she was rebuffed when she first approached Ottawa about giving the rockets to Ukraine instead of demolishing them.

“I was told that Canada has looked at it and decided it doesn’t have any value,” Kate McKenna, said.

“The CRV7s offer immense value to Ukraine’s defence.”

McKenna started a petition on the issue last December. The fact that Canada was sitting on the munitions “makes me kind of a bit salty,” she said.

“The rockets themselves are made up of a number of parts, including, the casing, the rocket fuel, the motor,” the former British Columbia resident said.

“Each one of those components can be repurposed by the Ukrainians. They are incredibly valuable,” said McKenna.

Ukraine has made similar appeals for junked military equipment to other countries, including Australia, which has 45 retired MRH-90 helicopters that Ukraine wants.

But Australia has deemed them unsafe, and intends to disassemble and bury the choppers, arguing getting them into working condition would be too costly.

“You don’t get to tell Ukraine what is or isn’t a good risk,” McKenna responded. “There are no good risks. Ukrainians are dying and we need to just be brave.”

“Trust Ukraine, trust them to make use of every single piece of that rocket, please. And Ukraine is ready to send over a team,” she said.

“They know what they’re doing.”

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