Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered an impassioned speech to parliamentarians Friday calling on Canada and other western allies to stick by his country through the long, bloody road to victory.
He addressed a joint meeting of the Canadian Parliament Friday following meetings in the United States, where he appealed for more weapons and rebuked Russia before the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.
“Life and justice must prevail,” Zelenskyy told the House of Commons in a speech that received at least a dozen standing ovations.
“When we call on the world to support us, it is not just about an ordinary conflict. It is about saving the lives of millions of people. Literally physical salvation, ordinary women and men, children, our families, whole communities, entire cities. Russia’s destruction of Mariupol or Bakhmut or any other city must not go unpunished.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used the visit to announce Friday another $650 million in military aid for Ukraine, spread over three years, to acquire 50 armoured vehicles. The fleet will include medical evacuation vehicles to be built in London, Ont., he said.
The new aid package is in addition to the $500 million announced by Trudeau in June during a visit to Kyiv.
It represents a fundamental shift in the way Canada delivers war materiel. Instead of answering specific, individual requests for equipment from Ukraine, the Canadian government is anticipating its needs and planning to deliver on a sustained basis.
“History will judge us on how we defend democratic values, and Ukraine is at the tip of the spear in this great challenge of the 21st century,” Trudeau told the House before introducing Zelenskyy.
“[Russian President Vladimir Putin] governs with deception, violence and repression … But his imperial delusions in Ukraine have been met with a fierce defence. A defence that is not just strong because of the support from friends around the world, but because those who fight for their freedom will always fight with their whole hearts.”
As Ukrainian refugees looked on from the gallery, Zelenskyy thanked Canada for its military aid so far, which has included air defence systems, armoured vehicles and artillery shells.
“Canada’s support for Ukraine with weapons and equipment has allowed us to save thousands of lives,” he said.
He said it’s a tradition of sustained support that dates back to 1983, when the first monument in the world to honour the victims of the Holodomor — the Soviet-engineered famine that killed millions of Ukrainians in the 1930s. — was unveiled in the city of Edmonton.
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“Moscow now, as always, is bent on controlling Ukraine and makes use of all available means to do that, including genocide,” Zelenskyy said.
“Ukraine, not genocide, will be victorious in this war. People will be the winners, not the Kremlin.”
Zelenskyy met earlier in the day with Gov. Gen. Mary Simon. He said she taught him an Inuktitut word — “ajuinnata“
“She said the meaning of this word is, ‘Don’t give up … stay strong against all odds,'” he said, ending his address to Parliament.
“And so it shall be. Ajuinnata Canada. Ajuinnata Ukraine.”
New sanctions announced
After the speeches, the two countries signed a modernized trade deal meant to strengthen economic ties.
Trudeau offered more information about that $500 million aid package announced months ago. About $76 million of that package is going to supply 35 high-resolution drone cameras, while another $30 million has been earmarked for a new repair facility in Poland for Ukraine’s Leopard tanks.
Canada also will send trainers for Ukrainian pilots and more small arms ammunition and has set aside more than $4 million to strengthen nuclear security measures at the Chernobyl exclusion zone.
Friday’s announcement brings Canada’s total committed support to Ukraine to more than $9.5 billion since the beginning of 2022, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.
The government unveiled new sanctions today against 63 Russian individuals and entities Trudeau said are complicit in the kidnapping of Ukrainian children and the spread of disinformation and propaganda. The sanctions also will apply to entities in Russia’s nuclear sector already sanctioned by Canada’s international partners.
The NDP has called Canada’s sanctions regime “political theatre.” RCMP data suggests few funds have been frozen or seized.
As part of Friday’s announcement, Canada and Ukraine agreed to work with international partners to establish a working group “to provide advice to decision makers on the seizure and forfeiture of Russian assets, including Russian central bank assets,” according to a readout from PMO.
Chillier reception in the U.S.
Zelenskyy’s visit is part of his campaign to nail down long-term support from allies.
Earlier this week, Poland’s prime minister announced a halt in military donations following a trade dispute between the neighbouring countries.
And while the Biden administration in the United States remains firmly behind Ukraine, the notion of continued, open-ended support for the embattled Eastern European country is dividing the Republican Party. U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy chose not to greet the Ukrainian leader before the cameras Thursday.
There has been no hint of any such political divide in Canada. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre gave a thumbs-up to the Ukraine delegation when it arrived outside the House of Commons chamber and Zelenskyy was formally greeted by political leaders.
In a media statement, the Conservative leader said Canadians will continue to stand with Ukrainians.
“Canada should continue to help Ukrainians win their freedom, welcome Ukrainian refugees and finally begin to approve natural gas exports to break European dependence on Russia and turn dollars for dictators like Putin into paycheques for our people,” he said.
“Canada should be an ethical, clean energy superpower that energizes the free world with our resources.”
Saskatchewan Sen. Denise Batters, who is of Ukrainian descent, attended the event wearing a vyshyvanka, a traditional Ukrainian embroidered blouse. She told Zelenskyy her grandmother stitched the garment more than 100 years ago before coming to Canada.
Separately, Ukraine’s new Defence Minister Rustem Umerov met with his Canadian counterpart, Bill Blair, at National Defence headquarters. Blair said the government has had “outstanding” discussions with Ukraine about how Canada can help with its “valiant and courageous struggle” against Russia.
“We believe it is our responsibility and we are absolutely resolved to providing all of the assistance and support that we can for Ukraine,” Blair said.
Umerov thanked Biair.
Visit comes as Ukraine reports battlefield progress
The visit happened just as reports emerged that Ukrainian forces operating near Orikhiv have penetrated the third line of Russian defences in the south of the country.
The U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War, which has been following the invasion with daily reports and analysis, hesitated to call it a breakthrough. It noted that geolocated footage posted online Thursday “indicates that Ukrainian armoured vehicles advanced south of the Russian anti-tank ditches and dragon’s teeth obstacles” that form part of Russia’s three defensive lines.
“The Ukrainian ability to bring armoured vehicles to and through the most formidable Russian defences intended to stop them, and to operate these vehicles near prepared Russian defensive positions, are important signs of progress in the Ukrainian counteroffensive,” the institute said in its nightly analysis.
Paul Grod, president of the World Ukrainian Congress, said for Ukrainians it’s not about liberating territory as much as it is about freeing people from Russian occupation.
Also on Friday, a Ukrainian missile struck the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, the major city in occupied Crimea. The attack left one serviceman unaccounted for and the building that controls Russian naval operations in ruins.