Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a surprise trip to Ukraine on Sunday amid the ongoing Russian invasion and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to show Canada’s support for the country and its people.
In a joint news conference with Zelenskyy, Trudeau said that Canada would be providing more military assistance to Ukraine in the form of drone cameras, satellite imagery, small arms, ammunition and funding for landmine clearing operations.
This announcement comes two weeks after Trudeau said Canada would be sending heavy artillery to Ukraine.
The prime minister also announced more sanctions on 40 Russian individuals and five entities. These include oligarchs and close associates of the Kremlin and Russia’s defence sector.
“It is clear that Vladimir Putin is responsible for heinous war crimes. There must be accountability. Canada will support Ukraine as you seek justice for your people who Russia is killing and brutalizing,” Trudeau told reporters on Sunday.
On top of that, Canada is providing $25 million to the World Food Programme for food security in Ukraine and removing trade tariffs for all Ukrainian imports to Canada, Trudeau announced. There will also be new funding for organizations in Ukraine supporting women’s rights, civil society and human rights.
“We will continue to do whatever is necessary to stand with Ukraine, not just because it’s the right thing or because Ukrainians are our friends, but because it is also standing for the principles of democracy that keep Canadians safe,” Trudeau said.
The prime minister also participated in virtual meetings with G7 leaders to talk about the war in Ukraine. In a joint statement, G7 leaders committed to phasing out Russian energy, isolating Russia’s economy, combatting wartime disinformation and continuing the sanctions against the Russian elite.
Zelenskyy expressed his gratitude and told reporters that the Canadian government’s assistance to Ukraine has been more than sufficient, calling Canada a country that “we also cannot ask for more from.”
On this visit, Trudeau was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly. They arrived in Ukraine Sunday morning and began their visit touring the devastation in the Kyiv suburb of Irpin, which was badly bombed before Russian forces retreated.
“When I was in Irpin this morning, I saw just how much Ukrainians can do standing against a force eight times as large as they were in defending their homes, defending their land, pushing back against the Russian illegal invasion. It is an inspiration,” he said.
Trudeau also announced the reopening of the Canadian embassy in Kyiv. To mark the reopening, he participated in a Canadian flag raising ceremony at the embassy alongside Freeland, Joly and Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine Larisa Galadza.
The embassy had been closed since early February, as western intelligence services were warning that a Russian invasion appeared imminent. Diplomatic staff were initially relocated to the western city of Lviv but have since all moved to Poland.
“This flag came down on February 13 and we’re really glad to be raising it again,” the prime minister told reporters at the embassy. “Having the Canadian flag fly in Kyiv once again is an incredible testament to the strength and solidarity of the Canadians in Ukraine.”
A first attempt at raising the flag was hampered by a cable glitch, before a second successful try in a ceremony shared by Canadian officials and Sergii Maier, one of the Ukrainian security guards who looked after the empty building.
Maier was personally thanked by the prime minister who described the flag raising as an important symbolic moment of friendship between Canada and Ukraine.
VISIT IS A ‘MASSIVELY’ IMPORTANT SIGNAL: EX-UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR
Andriy Shevchenko, the former Ukrainian ambassador to Canada, says Trudeau’s visit sends a “massively” important signal.
“It’s not just another sign of solidarity,” he told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday.
“(Trudeau) has a very decent understanding of what is going on here. But now, he had the chance to see it with his own eyes,” Shevchenko said. “I think it’s very important that he has this understanding.”
The timing of Trudeau’s visit also falls a day before Russia’s Victory Day, which celebrates the Soviet Union’s Second World War victory over Nazi Germany. Some observers believe Russian President Vladimir Putin could use the May 9 celebrations to declare either a symbolic victory over Ukraine or announce further escalations in the conflict.
“I think those who are here in Kyiv — they have greatly appreciated the timing of this visit,” the former ambassador said. “Yes, it’s true that the Russians are obsessed with this May 9 mythology and there are a lot of news and conversations about what can happen in the next 24 hours.”
U.S. First Lady Jill Biden also made an unannounced Mother’s Day visit to the country, meeting with local mothers and her Ukrainian counterpart in the southwestern city of Uzhhorod.
With files from The Canadian Press