CF-18 Hornet fighter jets belonging to the Canadian 410 'Couger' Squadron are seen in 2009 under shelters on the tarmac at Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro, Calif. (David McNew / Getty Images)
OTTAWA — Canada is deploying six CF-18 fighter jets to Eastern Europe as part of NATO’s response to the worsening crisis in Ukraine, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Thursday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Ukraine was on the brink of civil war, stoking fears of outright Russian intervention.
NATO has increased air sorties and additional navy ships in the region as Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces face off.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — which border Russia and have sizeable ethnic Russian populations — have all sought reassurances, as have Ukraine’s neighbors Poland and Romania.
Harper condemned what he called “Russia’s illegal occupation of Ukraine and its ongoing aggressive military provocation.”
The Canadian leader said he is concerned about “expansionism on the part of Russia under the presidency of Mr. Putin.
“I believe this to be a long-term serious threat to global peace and security, and we’re always prepared to work with our allies in NATO and elsewhere to try and bring whatever stability we can to the situation.”
The United States has also sent fighter aircraft to the Baltic states and Poland, to bolster confidence in member countries once ruled by Moscow.