Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Sunday and told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Canada would deliver more weapons and other assistance, as well as reopen its embassy in the Ukrainian capital.
Mr. Trudeau said Canada would deliver $50-million in military assistance, including more camera equipment for the drones that have been so effective in derailing Russia’s invasion – which was supposed to last just days but is now in its 11th week – as well as satellite imagery, ammunition and unspecified “small arms.”
He also announced $10-million in new funding that will go toward human-rights and civil-society groups and demining in the areas of Ukraine that have been liberated from Russian occupation. In addition, Canada will contribute $25-million in assistance via the World Food Programme. That funding was previously announced but not allocated.
He also said Ottawa was imposing sanctions on 40 more Russian individuals and five entities that Mr. Trudeau described as “oligarchs, close associates of the regime, the defence sector, all of them complicit in Putin’s war.”
Mr. Trudeau said Canada and its allies were determined to make sure that Russian President Vladimir Putin failed in his effort to conquer Ukraine, which has seen apparent war crimes committed in the southern port city of Mariupol, as well as towns in the Kyiv region, including Bucha and Irpin.
“The atrocities he’s committing in Mariupol, that we saw in Bucha and elsewhere, only strengthen our determination to ensure that Vladimir Putin loses this war,” Mr. Trudeau said.
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“He made some very profound miscalculations. First of all, he miscalculated deeply the courage, the resolve, the strength of the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian leader. Secondly, he vastly underestimated the determination and the ability of countries around the world to stand against his actions and stand in support of our Ukrainian friends.”
Alongside Mr. Trudeau in Kyiv’s Mariinsky Palace, Mr. Zelensky praised Canada as one of the best friends Ukraine has, alongside the Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Mr. Zelensky said he recently told the Baltic leaders, “I don’t know what to ask for because you’ve already given everything you had.” He added: “Today, we are hosting the leader of the fourth country that we also cannot ask for more.”
Mr. Trudeau, who was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, flew from Ottawa to Poland on Saturday night aboard a Canadian military Airbus CC-150, and then took a train to Kyiv. They were taken from Kyiv’s central train station to the Presidential Administration building in a 19-car convoy that included police escorts and a trailing ambulance. The delegation was expected to return to Canada by Monday.
The Prime Minister’s most senior staff also joined him on the trip to Ukraine, including chief of staff Katie Telford, her deputy Brian Clow, and Mr. Trudeau’s national security and intelligence adviser Jody Thomas.
The senior ministers and government officials took part in a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister and Mr. Zelensky.
A semblance of normality has returned to Kyiv since last month, when Russian forces ended their initial attempt to seize the capital and redeployed to the east of the country, which is now the main front of the war. But missile strikes on the city are not uncommon, and air-raid sirens sounded on Sunday while Mr. Trudeau, Ms. Freeland and Ms. Joly were in the Kyiv region.
The Canadian embassy has been closed since Feb. 12, when diplomats moved from Kyiv to the western city of Lviv as Russia massed troops around Ukraine. On Feb. 24, the day Russia invaded, all embassy staff left Ukraine for Poland.
On Sunday, Mr. Trudeau helped Ambassador Larisa Galadza restore the Maple Leaf to its flagpole in front of Canada’s embassy in central Kyiv, which is steps from the city’s famed Independence Square. A press release from the Prime Minister’s office said Ms. Galadza and other staff will resume diplomatic operations in Kyiv but consular and immigration services will not yet be offered there.
Canada’s full diplomatic presence and embassy services will be restored gradually, Mr. Trudeau’s office said. The United States, which similarly closed its embassy at the start of the war – when most pundits were predicting a swift Russian conquest – also returned its diplomatic staff to Kyiv on Sunday.
“This flag came down on February 13 and we’re really glad to be raising it again,” Mr. Trudeau said outside the Canadian embassy. “Having the Canadian flag fly in Kyiv once again is an incredible testament to the strength and solidarity of the Canadians in Ukraine.”
The move follows mounting pressure on Mr. Trudeau and his government for not moving as quickly as other allies to send a high-level political delegation to Ukraine or reopen the Canadian embassy in the war-torn country. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Polish President Andrzej Duda and several other European leaders have already visited Kyiv in recent weeks.
But while the Prime Minister was slower to visit Ukraine than some other leaders, his timing – one day before Mr. Putin is due to address a military parade on Red Square – was significant, said Marcus Kolga, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. Mr. Putin is expected to use the annual Victory Day celebration, which marks the defeat of Nazi Germany, to either claim some form of a win or to somehow escalate the war he launched against Ukraine.
Mr. Kolga said that the Prime Minister’s visit and the reopening of Canada’s embassy help rebut Mr. Putin’s domestic narrative that the invasion has been successful.
Before his meeting with Mr. Zelensky, Mr. Trudeau toured the shattered town of Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, which was the scene of some of the heaviest fighting in the early weeks of the war. After the assault on Kyiv failed, Russian troops withdrew from Irpin and other areas around the capital, revealing the scale of the killing and destruction that took place during Russia’s month-long occupation of the region. About 340 people, including 290 civilians, died in Irpin alone.
Hundreds more died in the nearby towns of Bucha and Borodyanka. Visiting officials, including International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Karim Khan, have said there is evidence to suggest that Russian forces were guilty of war crimes in the region. Russia is not a party to the ICC.
Irpin Mayor Oleksandr Markushyn praised Mr. Trudeau for visiting Irpin “to see with his own eyes all the horror that the Russian occupiers had done to our city. And, of course, he was shocked,” Mr. Markushyn said in remarks posted to his Telegram account.
He also posted photographs of the Canadian delegation standing in front of a scorched apartment block that was missing its roof and part of the building’s top floor after evidently being struck with some kind of heavy munition. The group was surrounded by heavy security.
“My sincere thanks to Mr. Trudeau for the support that Canada is providing to Ukraine today,” Mr. Markushyn wrote.
Speaking alongside Mr. Zelensky, Mr. Trudeau said it was “clear that Vladimir Putin is responsible for heinous war crimes. There must be accountability. Canada will support Ukraine as you seek justice for your people who Russia is killing and brutalizing.”
The Canadian delegation were among several high-profile visitors to Ukraine on Sunday. U.S. first lady Jill Biden made an unscheduled visit to Uzhgorod, in Western Ukraine, where she met with Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, to mark Mother’s Day.
“I wanted to come on Mother’s Day,” Ms. Biden told Ms. Zelenska. “I thought it was important to show the Ukrainian people that this war has to stop and this war has been brutal and that the people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine.”
Also on Sunday, Bono and The Edge, members of the Irish rock band U2, gave a surprise concert in a subway station in central Kyiv that has recently been used as a bomb shelter.
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