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From Kiev, Baird says ‘Canada wants to play a part’

Arseny Yatsenyuk, right, acknowledges applause from his colleagues after being appointed prime minister during a session of the Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev, Thurs. Feb. 27, 2014. He is set to meet Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird on Friday.

Konstantin Chernichkin/REUTERS

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is in Kiev today to meet with the new Ukrainian prime minister, Arseny Yatseniuk.

Baird has already met with former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and was also expected to meet with acting president Oleksandr Turchynov.

Baird is leading a delegation of Conservative MPs and Ukrainian-Canadian community leaders on the visit.

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Speaking with reporters in Kiev early Friday, Baird said he wanted to show Canada's support for the new government, "to support them on the transition to democracy, to elections, to support them in their economic needs."

"That's why we're here to do a lot of listening and to make it clear that Canada wants to play a part in their building a future," he said.

Baird tweeted that he visited St. Michael's Monastery, which played a major role in helping those injured during the unrest.

He later posted another tweet saying Canada will provide $200,000 in medical aid for Ukrainians caught in the recent violence.

Baird has welcomed the appointment of the new government, although Ottawa says sanctions against Viktor Yanukovych's former regime are on hold.

However, a travel ban remains in place that prevents those with ties to Yanukovych from travelling to Canada.

The federal government says it wants to await the green light from the new Ukrainian leaders before deciding on sanctions.

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"Minority rights will be very important," Baird added Friday. "I know the new government will want to build a country that's inclusive of everyone. They were citizens in a country where the government didn't take that view."

After his arrival in Kiev, Baird toured the central square, called the Maidan, where thousands of people staged protests over the past few months.

Baird tweeted early Friday that it was an "emotional experience walking through the Maidan," adding, "I wish for peace upon the Ukrainian people, and mourn those lost."

Baird's tweet was accompanied by a picture of a white dove painted on the side of a stack of old tires.

Canadian opposition members weren't invited to travel with the Canadian delegation to Ukraine.

Jason MacDonald, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's spokesman, said the Liberals and the NDP hadn't earned a spot on the trip.

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He pointed to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's flippant joke about Ukraine last week, and said the NDP "wouldn't pick a side."

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