MPs on a Parliamentary committee are eyeing a visit to war-torn Ukraine to demonstrate support for Kyiv even as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remains mum on when he might follow the lead of European and U.S. politicians in journeying to the Ukrainian capital.
Michael Chong, the Conservative foreign affairs critic, told reporters Monday that members of the House of Commons standing committee on foreign affairs and international development are discussing a trip to Ukraine, where Russia’s military assault on the country has entered its third month.
Bloc Québécois foreign affairs critic Stéphane Bergeron said the committee had already been planning a trip to the Baltics and Poland and is considering adding a stop in Ukraine. He said a trip to Europe could take place as early as June.
Separately, Monday, Ukraine’s new ambassador-designate appeared before the Commons foreign affairs committee where she appealed for the prompt delivery of more weapons and money as quickly as possible. “Financial and military aid must increasingly and urgently flow to Ukraine as the war unfolds,” Yulia Kovaliv told MPs.
She said Ukraine was grateful for the $1.5-billion in loans Canada has advanced to Ukraine as well as the $110-million in military aid early in the war, which was followed by the donation of four artillery guns and eight armoured vehicles. Much of the $500-million in military aid the Canadian government pledged in its April, 2022 budget, however, remains unallocated.
“The further prompt supply of needed weapons is essential,” Ms. Kovaliv told MPs. “Each day the Russians are trying to penetrate and break our defences.”
She also said Ukraine would welcome Canadian politicians to visit Ukraine. “We invite you to visit Ukraine and show solidarity with Ukraine’s government and people in the most darkest time of our modern history.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are among Western politicians who have visited Kyiv. The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have also made the journey.
Mr. Trudeau, however, avoided answering the question when asked Monday during a visit to Windsor whether he intends to visit Kyiv. “We continue to work also with allies around the world to do everything we can to support Ukraine and push back and make sure that Russia loses this illegal war and every step of the way, we will continue to do whatever is necessary to help Ukraine.”
The Prime Minister’s office declined to say whether Mr. Trudeau might go, referring to his comments in Windsor.
Ms. Kovaliv told MPs Ukraine is assembling a rebuilding plan to repair all the war damage caused by Russia – estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars – and hopes it can rely on Canada to co-operate.
She said the country needs a “recovery strategy similar” to the Marshall Plan of foreign aid from the United States, which funnelled billions of dollars to rebuild the devastated cities of Western Europe after the Second World War.
The ambassador said Ukraine was gratified to see the Canadian government announce plans to give itself the power to sell off assets of foreigners seized under sanctions law and then turned over to affected victims of Moscow’s military assault.
She said Ukraine believes the billions of dollars frozen by sanctions laws around the world should be used to finance the rebuilding of Ukrainian cities destroyed by the Russians. This includes much of US$630-billion of Moscow’s foreign reserves held outside Russia.
“It’s not only a one-man show. The entire Russian society – not only [President Vladimir] Putin and his proxies – should bear responsibility for Russia’s war against Ukraine,” Ms. Kovaliv said.
Mr. Chong asked Ms. Kovaliv whether Ukraine’s goal is to recover all territory lost since Moscow began its latest assault on Feb. 24 or to also regain the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.
The Ukrainian envoy was clear Kyiv wants it all back. “Restoration of Ukrainian sovereign territories,” is Kyiv’s goal, she said. Asked whether this included Crimea, she repeated the same answer.
Canada has said it intends to reopen its embassy in Kyiv as soon as it determines its staff will be safe.
Ukraine’s envoy was asked by Mr. Bergeron whether her country can give security guarantees to Canadian diplomats should they return to Kyiv. “The only guarantee for protection of civilians is prompt military aid to Ukraine,” Ms. Kovaliv replied.
Ukraine’s representatives pointed out that Russia still has the means to lob missiles at Kyiv and Lviv, noting that projectiles struck the capital and Ukraine’s westernmost big city during recent visits by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and actor Angelina Jolie, respectively.
“All visits have a certain risk,” Andrii Bukvych, Ukraine’s chargé d’affaires to Canada told reporters.
“Cynical, barbaric and indiscriminate shelling is one of the tactics that Russia has in this war.”
Asked to list the priorities for new weapons donations, Mr. Bukvych said Ukraine needs more assault weapons to take back lost territory. “It’s time to regain our borders and restore territorial integrity,” he said, listing tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery and aerial-defence systems as top requirements.
The Bloc’s Mr. Bergeron said the Commons foreign affairs committee has asked the department of Global Affairs if it was possible “to make a quick stop in Ukraine,” or a stop at the Ukraine-Poland border. He said the committee is awaiting a response from Global Affairs. Liberal committee chair Sven Spengemann refused to comment on plans, saying it’s up to members to decide.
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