07/31/2015 01:08 EDT | Updated 07/31/2015 01:59 EDT

Canada Sticking To NATO Assurance Mission Until Next June: Harper

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada will extend its participation in NATO efforts to support security in central and eastern Europe until June 2016.

He says the extension of what is known as Operation Reassurance underlines the Canadian commitment to allies in the region.

Canada's participation in the NATO operation began in the spring of 2014.

Canadian troops, planes and ships have taken part in exercises and patrols aimed at supporting countries, including Ukraine, which fear Russian interference.

Harper says the extension of the operation is part of Canada's broader response to Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Canada has send money and equipment to Ukraine and has detailed soldiers on training missions with that country's military.

Harper has been an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin over his occupation of parts of Ukraine.

The Canadian government has also imposed sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian individuals and entities which it says are implicated in Moscow`s expansionist efforts.

Harper said it is important to bolster the security of NATO allies.

"Canada remains steadfast in its commitment to continue to work to promote stability and security in central and eastern Europe, including through the extension of Operation Reassurance," he said in a statement.

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