Russia invading Ukraine in ’slow motion,’ Harper tells NATO supreme commander

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of mounting a “slow-motion” invasion of Ukraine.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper is accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of mounting a “slow-motion” invasion of Ukraine.

Harper’s latest broadside against the Russian leader came Monday in Ottawa at the start of talks with U.S. Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s supreme commander.

“We are obviously concerned by the continuing escalation of violence in Ukraine, which to me very much appears to be clearly what I would call a slow-motion invasion on the part of the Putin regime,” Harper said as Breedlove nodded his agreement in the prime minister’s Langevin Block office.

Breedlove is embarking on two days of talks with Canadian political and military leaders just as heavy clashes erupt between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces in Ukraine’s eastern region.

He met briefly with Harper, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson and Canada’s military commander, Gen. Tom Lawson.

The meetings are being held against a backdrop of escalating violence in Ukraine, where the country’s elite troops have been dispatched to quell unrest in the key southern port city of Odessa.

Harper called the latest developments “very deeply concerning” and acknowledged NATO has asked for Canada’s support.

Canada has contributed air, naval and army assets, said Harper, noting the contributions were made to give assurances to eastern European allies of Canada’s support.

Pitched battles between pro-Russian militants and Ukrainian forces are taking place in and around the city Slovyansk, which has been a hotbed of unrest.

Breedlove is expected to give Canadian authorities an update on NATO’s so-called reassurance package for eastern European countries bordering the troubled region.

Canada has dispatched a frigate to operate with NATO’s standing task force in the eastern Mediterranean Sea; six CF-18 fighters to operate out of a Romanian air base; and will deploy troops from the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry to take part in a land exercise in Poland.

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