Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is heading to Europe for talks with continental leaders about Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, and to discuss how the West can counter Kremlin disinformation.
Mr. Trudeau announced Friday that he will leave Sunday to travel to London, Berlin, Warsaw and Riga. Several hundred Canadian soldiers are stationed near the Latvian capital.
The discussions will centre on what other measures the West can take to stand up to Russia and to “combat the kind of disinformation and misinformation that is a facet … of this war in Ukraine,” he told reporters at an event in Mississauga.
He condemned President Vladimir Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons and criticized Russia’s seizure in Ukraine of Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant in a firefight that caused alarm around the world.
The Prime Minister said co-ordinated and severe sanctions are working to cripple the Russian economy, but he ruled out pushing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
The leaders of Ukraine, which has been enduring massive Russian bombardments, and the Canadian Ukrainian Congress have been pleading for Canada and its NATO allies to enforce a no-fly zone, an idea flatly rejected on Friday by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
“The thing we have so far avoided and will continue to need to avoid is to put us in a situation where NATO forces are in direct conflict with Russian soldiers. That would be a level of escalation that would be unfortunate and we need to avoid,” Mr. Trudeau said.
For now, Mr. Trudeau said the best approach to counter Moscow’s war against Ukraine is to collapse its economy with severe economic sanctions, including freezing the foreign-reserve assets of Russia’s central bank and banning Russian banks from using the SWIFT banking message system.
“Russia is reeling from strong and aligned measures that democracies around the world have engaged in. We see the ruble falling to record lows. We see major credit agencies significantly downgrading Russia’s economic status,” he said.
Mr. Trudeau touted Ottawa’s decision to unveil two immigration programs to receive Ukrainians: one for those seeking a short-term refuge from the violence in their home country, and another for those seeking to permanently immigrate to Canada.
“We have heard very clearly from many Ukrainians that they are looking forward to coming to Canada and being safe for a while, but they are committed to returning to Ukraine,” Mr. Trudeau said.
The government is still declining to drop a visa requirement for Ukraine travellers – as the European Union did in 2017 – that would make travelling here easier. Canada has granted citizens of more than 65 other countries and jurisdictions visa-free access.
But Ottawa said it is going to offer a stripped-down visa-application process even as it retains a security check for all applicants.
For Ukrainians who want to stay in Canada temporarily, Ottawa will create a Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser told reporters in Ottawa on Thursday. It will offer a streamlined process that eliminates most of the normal visa requirements. If Ukrainians pass the background check and security screening, their stay in Canada could be extended for up to two years, he said.
The biometric screening for security that Ukrainians must undergo can be done at Canadian diplomatic missions in Warsaw, Vienna, Bucharest and 30 other locations throughout Europe.
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