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A man rides a bicycle past a residential building, which was heavily damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 18.ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO/Reuters

Michael Bociurkiw is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a former spokesperson for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

The weekend was a violent one in many regions of Ukraine. In the western city of Lviv, civilian infrastructure was targeted for the first time; seven people were killed and 11 injured, including a child, in a Monday morning strike.

Without the ability to protect its own skies, all of Ukraine is within range of deadly long-range missiles fired from Russia. However, despite the dangers, several embassies – including the European Union, Turkey and Italy – have redeployed their diplomats to Kyiv.

This is brave and important. I’ve witnessed diplomacy for a long time, and I know that diplomats are at their best when they work face-to-face with their counterparts. That way, they can probe, prod, guide, scold and do whatever it takes to get things moving.

Canada is proving to be an embarrassing exception. The Canadian contingent, which typically cohabitates with the Australians in a building near Kyiv’s Maidan Square, fled Ukraine altogether in late February for Poland, and have yet to return.

Canada has the distinction of being the first western country to recognize Ukrainian independence in 1991. It’s one of the reasons the maple leaf brings a smile to the faces of Ukrainians. Since then, it has pumped millions of dollars into the country to help build up its patrol police, ministries, media and armed forces; it has been at the forefront of helping Kyiv in its war on corruption, particularly in the judiciary. In my time here, I’ve met many young Ukrainians who’ve proudly boasted about their participation in the Canada-Ukraine parliamentary internship program.

But with the war now in its 54th day, with no end in sight, it’s time for Canadian embassy staff to leave Poland and return to their desks in Kyiv. There’s plenty of work to do here, not least of which is to assist in the enormous reconstruction and rehabilitation effort to come. Canada has world-class experience in sectors that are needed in the capital, from telecommunications and aviation to major infrastructure and humanitarian aid.

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Canada has been slow to act. In mid-February, it finally provided the lethal weaponry Kyiv had been requesting for months, apparently out of a misplaced belief that sanctions work better than force. After several waves of sanctions, we now know that they’re an ineffective deterrent to Mr. Putin; after all, no matter how stringent the sanctions are, they hurt the Russian people, not him. It is as if Global Affairs Canada is gunning for a global peace prize, with this kind of reluctance.

Ottawa can do more to help Ukraine achieve its immediate needs, by prodding allies to provide the technology and weaponry necessary to defend its own skies from long-range Russian missiles. The ones that struck Lviv on Monday reportedly travelled more than 1,700 kilometres from near the Caspian Sea, according to the city’s regional governor.

The Canadian government can also assist with the construction of temporary housing in safe havens in Ukraine for displaced migrants. Some populated centres have been completely levelled by Russian shelling, and so the need for shelter is enormous. And while it’s laudable that Canada has offered an unlimited number of visas for Ukrainians fleeing the violence, most displaced civilians I’ve spoken to wish to remain close to Ukraine.

And with reconstruction costs now estimated at more than US$560-billion, Canada can leverage its connections in the capitals of the world’s wealthiest nations to convene a pledging summit. A multi-stakeholder event involving the Ukrainian government could set priorities and secure financial commitments for the huge rebuilding effort that will be required when peace finally arrives.

But as a first step, let’s start with getting our diplomats back to Kyiv. Every day delayed is another wasted in helping Ukraine to get back on its feet from more than 50 days of ferocious Russian aggression.

As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the Canadian parliament on March 14: “Can you imagine when you call your friends, your friendly nation, and you ask: ‘Please close the sky, close the airspace, please stop the bombing. How many more cruise missiles have to fall on our cities until you make this happen?’ And they, in return, they express their deep concerns about the situation.”

Every day that the West fails to help boost Ukraine’s ability to repel Russian aggression is another day in which more innocent civilians are slaughtered. Justin Trudeau and his globe-trotting envoy, Mélanie Joly, need to ask themselves if that is a legacy they wish to be a part of.

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