Ties between Canada and Ukraine grew stronger this week with the signing in Ottawa of a defence co-operation agreement between the two countries.

Defence policies, defence research, development, production, and military education are among the areas touch on by the bilateral arrangement signed Monday by Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Ukrainian Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak.

Called the Canada-Ukraine Defence Cooperation Arrangement, the pact is also likely the first step towards the possibility of allowing Canadian defence companies to sell weapons the Ukraine.

The signing of the agreement comes just a month after Ottawa announced it will continue to send soldiers to Eastern Europe in order to train Ukrainian troops for two more years in the face of continuing Russian military aggression in the region. The extension of the Canadian Armed Forces’ Operation Unifier to the end of March 2019 was announced by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland .

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“Today’s signing of the Defence Cooperation Arrangement shows Canada’s steadfast commitment to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people,” Sajjan said. “It strengthens the ties between our two nations and helps us continue to develop our rich, mutually beneficial relationships.  Canada remains fully committed to providing assistance to Ukraine, helping to preserve and protect its sovereignty through Operation Unifier, and to supporting the implementation of key reforms.”

The defence minister was also quoted by the Ukraine national news agency Ukrinform, as saying the agreement will allow both countries to have “much more substantive discussion on various topics” and that “the next step will be to include Ukraine in the Automatic Firearms Country Control List.”

The Automatic Firearms Country Control List is a register of countries which Canadian defence companies are allowed by the Federal Government to supply weapons to. There are 35 countries on the list. Ukraine is not one of them.

Ukraine and Canada have also agreed to cooperate on cybersecurity defence.

However, Canada has provided development, financial, humanitarian, non-lethal military assistance to Ukraine, totaling more than $700 million since early 2014.

Since September 2015, more than 3200 Ukrainian Armed Forces members have been trained by the Canadian military.

“The Defense Ministry of Ukraine will cooperate with Canada on many issues, including those related to cyber defense,” Poltorak was quoted by Ukrinform as saying. “It is very important in view of the fact that the Russian Federation has carried out more than seven thousand cyber-attacks on Ukraine over the last three years.”

Ukraine continues to be gripped by civil conflict brought about by Russian-backed rebels. The battles, concentrated on its eastern border with Russia, have claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people since its inception in 2014.

“Operation Unifier represents a critical piece of our multifaceted support to Ukraine,” Freeland said last month. “It supports the professional development of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, who are essential for deterring aggression and creating a safe space for the sustainable social and economic development that the people of Ukraine want and deserve.”