• July 14, 2024, 12:44 am
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Ukraine’s Zelensky bolsters war support in Canada trip

News Desk
News Desk
Update: Saturday, September 23, 2023

Ukraine’s president met Friday with close ally Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who pledged additional aid to the war-torn country, as Volodymyr Zelensky completed the third leg in a tour aimed at bolstering international support.

Zelensky, who landed late Thursday in Ottawa, earlier this week addressed the United Nations and in Washington held meetings with the US Congress and President Joe Biden, who pledged the imminent arrival of US tanks to boost Ukraine’s arsenal.

Canada is home to the world’s second largest Ukrainian diaspora and Zelensky, in a speech to parliament, expressed thanks for the backing given to Kyiv since Russian troops poured over the Ukrainian borders in February 2022.

“When we call on the world to support us, it is not just about an ordinary conflict,” he said, “It is about saving the lives of millions of people — literally our salvation.”

Canada, he said, has “always defended justice and I had no doubt that you would choose the side of freedom and justice when Russia launched a full-scale war against Ukraine.”

“Thank you,” he said.

Zelensky concluded his remarks with an Inuktitut word — ajuinata — taught to him by Canada’s governor general, Mary Simon, that roughly translates to: “Don’t give up, stay strong against all odds.”

Trudeau vowed that he would continue to stand “strongly and unequivocally” with the pro-Western country, unveiling on Friday an additional Can$650 million over three years.

The pledge includes 50 armoured vehicles and training for F-16 fighter pilots, and comes on top of the $6.6 billion (Can$8.9 billion) in aid that Ottawa has already contributed.

“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 said.

“We will be with you and all heroes of this courageous fight for as long as it takes.”

Zelensky was due later in the day to fly with Trudeau to Toronto for meetings with business leaders and members of the Ukrainian-Canadian community.

– ‘Stiffening spines’ –

With the Ukrainian cause getting an increasingly chilly reception from the Republican Party in Washington and signs of war fatigue in Europe, Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said she was concerned about how solid support remains.

“Am I worried about whether the rest of the world, the rest of our allies will continue to be resolute? Of course. You have to work hard to maintain that support, to maintain that coalition,” she told public broadcaster CBC Thursday.

Canada’s aid to Ukraine to date has included more than $1.3 billion in military aid, including Leopard 2 tanks, air defense and artillery systems, anti-tank weapons, drones and other equipment.

It has also trained more than 36,000 Ukrainian soldiers.

“If we can play a role in stiffening the spines of some of our other friends and allies we’ll be happy to do that too,” Freeland said.

On Thursday, Zelensky confronted weakening political support in the United States for his country’s demands for more arms.

“We’re with you and we’re staying with you,” Biden told Zelensky at the White House.

Zelensky praised the pledge of more US weaponry, including air defense systems and the quick arrival of tanks.

But behind the visuals — firm handshakes across a grand cabinet table and shows of solidarity in the Oval Office — lay the fact that Zelensky’s second wartime trip to Washington was far tougher than the first.

He received a hero’s welcome when he visited in December but this time, he spent his closed-door meetings in the US Congress desperately trying to overcome skepticism.

Hardline Republicans are threatening to block Democrat Biden’s request for a fresh $24 billion aid package for Ukraine, and it has now become caught up in a bitter spending battle that could spark a US government shutdown.

To date, Congress has already approved $100 billion in aid, including $43 billion in weaponry.

In Ottawa, Zelensky addressed the fatigue, telling reporters: “You’re supporting either Ukraine or Russia. There is no in-between in this war.”
“Weakening support for Ukraine reinforces Russia,” he added. “What can you expect of a powerful Russia? I think history provides us with those answers.”

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