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Servicemen carry a coffin during the funeral ceremony of Yuriy Dadak-Ruf and Taras Kryt, killed due to artillery shelling in the Luhansk region, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Lviv, Ukraine, April 9, 2022.VIACHESLAV RATYNSKYI/Reuters

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Russia is systematically targeting civilians in Ukraine and restated Canada’s commitment to accept an unlimited number of Ukrainians who are fleeing the violence.

Mr. Trudeau made the comments in an interview with CNN that aired Sunday. Over the weekend, Canada and other countries participated in a Stand Up For Ukraine fundraising event that raised $12.4-billion in pledges to support Ukrainian refugees and address the humanitarian crisis.

“The images are horrific,” said Mr. Trudeau of the latest reports emerging from Ukraine revealing the deadly civilian consequences of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military invasion.

“The stories we’re hearing and we have been hearing from Ukrainian Canadians, but through social media as well, of what’s going on, it is clear that Putin is systematically targeting civilians, whether it’s hospitals or train stations or maternity wards.”

On Saturday, the Canadian government announced several new measures related to speeding up the approval of Ukrainians who are seeking to come to Canada and assisting them upon arrival.

The announcement included plans to charter flights to Canada for Ukrainians, temporary income support of $500 a week for six weeks to cover the basic needs of new arrivals and temporary hotel accommodation for up to two weeks. It also included an additional $100-million in humanitarian aid for the region.

In the CNN interview, Mr. Trudeau described Mr. Putin’s actions as war crimes, but the Prime Minister did not directly answer questions as to whether he believes Russia is committing genocide in Ukraine.

“Obviously the messages we’re seeing, the stories of what Russian soldiers are doing, not just the murder of civilians, but the systematic use of sexual violence and rape to destabilize and have the greatest negative impact on Ukrainian people as possible, is absolutely unforgivable and unacceptable. And that’s why the global community is going to, and is, responding so strongly,” he said.

Under a special immigration program called the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel, Canada has accepted 10,054 Ukrainians who arrived by air and 3,930 who arrived by land. The program has received 119,409 applications and 31,895 applications have been approved.

Mr. Trudeau told CNN that while many Ukrainians who fled the country prefer to stay in neighbouring regions for now, that may change if it appears the conflict will continue for a long period of time.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress issued a statement saying it looks forward to learning more about the details of Saturday’s announcement of new measures to bring Ukrainians to Canada.

“We welcome the government’s announcement of temporary federal income support, two weeks temporary hotel accommodation and travel assistance. Thousands of Canadians supported the UCC’s call to action and advocated strongly for federal supports with their MPs and government officials,” the organization said. “Most of the Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s war are women and children. They are traumatized by the barbarous attacks of the Russian army on Ukrainian civilians and will need assistance healing, surviving and restarting their lives.”

The Liberal government’s 2022 budget, tabled on Thursday, included a $1-billion loan program to assist the Ukrainian economy. The budget said this loan would be delivered through a new administered account at the International Monetary Fund.

The budget fell well short, however, in terms of meeting calls from Canada’s NATO’s allies to meet the organization’s target of spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence.

The cost of meeting that target has been estimated at around $17-billion in additional spending each year. Yet Thursday’s federal budget only announced $8-billion in new spending, spread out over five years.

The budget announcements included $500-million in additional weapons and military gear for Ukraine.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser told reporters the new measures announced Saturday will include programs starting this month to provide Ukrainians with arrival packages at the Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton airports.

Mr. Fraser said there are logistical challenges in bringing approved Ukrainians to Canada, in part because many are now spread across Europe.

“It’s not a circumstance where we have, for example, a refugee camp next to an airstrip with thousands of people who are waiting to board a plane,” he said. “We are hearing on the ground that not everyone who has applied or been approved for travel to Canada intends to travel right away. Some of them have taken advantage of the program on a speculative basis almost, as though it’s an insurance policy, because they’re waiting to see what happens and have a desire to remain as close to Ukraine as possible.”

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