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People push carts after receiving humanitarian aid in a damaged store of wholesaler Metro in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 24, 2022.ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO/Reuters

World leaders have agreed to send more military equipment to Ukraine, swell NATO ranks along Europe’s eastern flank and support the gathering of evidence of war crimes, as Western allies continue ramping up sanctions to increase the pressure on Moscow.

Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization agreed to the measures on Thursday at an emergency meeting under heavy security in Brussels – part of an unprecedented triple summit of the Western military alliance, the Group of Seven countries and the European Union. Pledging to present a united front in the face of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, NATO also called on Russia to implement an immediate ceasefire.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada will impose new economic sanctions against another 160 members of the Russian Federation Council. Washington also announced a new series of sanctions against Russia, and a fresh US$1-billion humanitarian aid package for Ukraine.

Mr. Trudeau told media Thursday that Canada would keep its sanctions in place “as long as it takes – many more months, more years if that’s what’s necessary.”

“On top of that, we are also committed to steadily increasing sanctions,” he said.

With the ruble crashing and the Russian stock market struggling, he said, “people are seeing real pain across Russia from this economic reality,” Mr. Trudeau said.

“Over the coming months as [sanctions] continue, that pain will only get harder and harder and harder for the Russian economy to bear. And there is one person – and one person only – who is responsible for that. And that is Vladimir Putin.”

Canada will also prohibit the export of specific technologies to Russia in a bid to undermine and erode Moscow’s military capabilities, and allocate the remaining $50-million of the country’s contribution for humanitarian aid to Ukraine and neighbouring countries through various programs, including the World Health Organization and the United Nations Refugee Agency.

The U.S. said it would also take in 100,000 refugees fleeing the war, but Mr. Trudeau made no such promises.

A joint statement by G7 leaders, meanwhile, welcomed the investigations by various bodies, including the International Criminal Court, saying they supported gathering evidence of war crimes.

In a virtual address to NATO on Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stopped short of issuing his usual request for a no-fly zone. But he hit out at the military alliance for not doing more to help his country defend itself against the Russians and appealed for “unlimited military support.”

“You have at least 20,000 tanks. Ukraine asks for 1 per cent, 1 per cent of all your tanks. Please give them to us or sell them to us. But we, so far, have not heard a clear response. We just want to save our people, to survive, just to survive,” Mr. Zelensky said.

Asked what – if anything – Ottawa will do to meet those requests, Mr. Trudeau said Canada is figuring out what it can send.

“We’re also committing to looking at procuring that equipment directly for the Ukrainians in other ways by working with allies and making investments necessary,” he said.

Speaking after the NATO meeting, U.S. President Joe Biden said the most effective tool to end Russia’s war against Ukraine will be keeping NATO and European allies united and punishing those countries that defy sanctions against Russia. He also said that Russia should be expelled from the Group of 20 nations.

NATO’s agreement to stage more troops will mean thousands more boots on the ground in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, and additional anti-tank and aircraft defence systems for Ukraine. The country will also receive more drones, said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, “which are proving highly effective” in its defence against Russia.

Member countries also agreed to work with the EU to support other nations at risk from Russian threats, including Georgia in the Caucasus and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Balkans.

NATO’s long-term defence plans are also changing, Mr. Stoltenberg told media Thursday. “But security doesn’t come for free, and doing more will cost more,” he said.

He added that NATO member states will submit additional spending plans for the next summit, earmarked for June in Madrid.

Mr. Trudeau would not say if, or by how much, Canada might increase its military spending in the coming months and years, saying only the federal government will “look at how we’ll continue to step up.”

A recent poll by Nanos Research found that Canadians marginally support spending more money on defence to meet the challenges posed by the war in Ukraine rather than spending money on social programs. The hybrid telephone and online survey of 1000 people, conducted between March 18 to 20, found 45 per cent of those polled favour an increase in defence spending while 39 per cent would like to see money devoted to social spending. And, 16 per cent of Canadians were unsure.

With a report from Robert Fife in Ottawa and Reuters

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