Canada to send more weapons to Ukraine, Trudeau says on trip to Kyiv

A fight for 'future of us all'

UPDATE: 8:55 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed Ukraine's parliament today, calling the fight against Russia's invasion a battle "for the future of us all."

He received several standing ovations during the 25-minute speech before a special session of the national legislature, known as the Verkhovna Rada.

Trudeau also told the lawmakers that Canada will support their country's bid for membership in the NATO military alliance and that peace must be achieved on Ukrainian terms and by total withdrawal of Russian forces.

Trudeau's address is part of an unannounced visit to Kyiv, where he pledged help for Ukraine’s military, including more weapons and fighter-pilot training, worth $500 million in new funding.

Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland met Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and some of his senior advisers and his trade minister, as well as both countries' ambassadors.

This is the second time that Trudeau has visited Ukraine since Russia began its full-scale invasion in February 2022, and comes amid signs a long-awaited spring counteroffensive against Russia could be underway.

ORIGINAL: 6:55 a.m.

Canada will spend $500 million to help Ukraine's military fight Russia's invasion, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday on an unannounced visit to Kyiv, including more weapons and fighter-pilot training.

"Canada will continue to stand with Ukraine with whatever it takes as long as it takes," Trudeau said in a press conference while standing beside Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

"You're fighting for your country and for values like democracy, freedom, respect, and dignity. And in fighting for Ukraine, you're also fighting for the future of us all," Trudeau told Zelenskyy.

The visit, which is happening at the invitation of Ukraine, comes amid signs a long-awaited spring counteroffensive against Russia could be underway.

It is also happening as there have been wildfires across Canada, with smoke reducing air quality, and after Friday's resignation of the special rapporteur Trudeau had assigned to probe foreign interference.

"Canada will be part of the multinational efforts to train fighter pilots and to help maintain Ukraine’s fighter-jet program, leveraging Canadian expertise in these areas," Trudeau said during the news conference, adding that Canada will join a team of countries helping to maintain tanks, while providing hundreds more missiles and additional rounds of ammunition.

That includes 288 more AIM-7 missiles for warding off Russian airstrikes, and reallocating existing funds for 10,000 rounds of 105-millimetre ammunition, Trudeau said.

The prime minister also announced existing aid for Ukraine will be used to support those coping with a worsening humanitarian situation in southern Ukraine after the collapse of a hydroelectric dam this week.

Trudeau also announced more sanctions on 24 individuals and 17 entities for alleged support of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

He also said the federal government would try to seize a massive Russian-registered Antonov 124 cargo plane that Canada grounded after it landed at Toronto Pearson International Airport in February 2022.

The prime minister said Canada will try to forfeit the plane to Ukraine, so it can’t be used to support Russia's war effort. Ottawa has legislation to forfeit assets of people sanctioned by Canada, but as of a month ago it had not filed any court application despite promising last December to seize assets held by oligarch Roman Abramovich.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland joined Trudeau on the trip, which began with the laying of a wreath at the Wall of Remembrance at St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery. Freeland also placed some flowers at the wall, which features photos of Ukrainians who have died while defending their homeland. Both met Ukrainian soldiers there for the event.

On his way to the wall, Trudeau at one point crouched down low to look inside one of the frames of burnt-out Russian tanks and military vehicles that fill a public square. Not long before Trudeau and Freeland arrived, there was sombre music and an honour guard for a casket carried into the cathedral for a funeral.

This is the second time that Trudeau has made an unannounced visit to the embattled country since Russia began its large-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Trudeau last travelled to Ukraine just over a year ago, where he reopened the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv and met Zelenskyy in person for the first time since the war began.

Some media outlets, including The Canadian Press, were made aware of this new trip ahead of time on the condition that it not be reported until it was made public, for security reasons.

Trudeau met Zelenskyy in the building housing the Office of the President on Saturday. Trudeau and Freeland then both took part in an expanded bilateral meeting with Zelenskyy and some of his officials, and he thanked Canada for taking in thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the conflict.

"We need more friends like Canada," Zelenskyy said.

The visit coincides with Ukraine's gradual ramping up of military activity. Moscow has claimed that Ukraine's long-promised spring counteroffensive is already happening. Ukraine's General Staff said Saturday that "heavy battles" were underway. It gave no details but said Russian forces were "defending themselves" and launching air and artillery strikes in Ukraine's southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.

Meanwhile, Britain's defence ministry reported on Saturday there has been "significant Ukrainian operations" in the country's east and south since Thursday morning, with gains in some areas.

The ministry reported mixed results from the Russian army, with some units holding ground "while others have pulled back in some disorder, amid increased reports of Russian casualties as they withdraw through their own minefields."

The ministry also noted "unusually active" Russian airstrikes in southern Ukraine, where it is easier for Moscow to fly planes.

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow will deploy some of its tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus next month, a move that the Belarusian opposition described as an attempt to blackmail the West ahead of a July meeting of the NATO military alliance.

Russia has used the territory of Belarus, its ally, to send its troops into Ukraine since the invasion began. It has kept forces and weapons there too.

Earlier this week, a hydroelectric dam on the Dnieper River ruptured, flooding a large part of the front line in southern Ukraine and worsening the humanitarian situation — including the need for drinking water — in an area that was already undergoing shelling.

It remains unclear how the dam collapse happened. Kyiv has accused Russia of blowing up the dam and its hydropower plant, which Russian forces controlled. Moscow said Ukraine did it.

Trudeau and Zelenskyy also spent some time together just last month on the margins of the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, where the Ukrainian president continued his campaign to shore up support among western allies for the defence of his country.

Canada has joined other countries in condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime for the incursion, including through economic sanctions.

Ottawa has also contributed more than $8 billion to efforts related to the war in Ukraine since last year.

That included launching a special immigration program to allow Ukrainians to come to Canada quickly with a temporary work and study permit, instead of going through the usual refugee system.

It also gave some $1 billion in military support, including the donation of eight Leopard 2 main battle tanks to support the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal visited Toronto in April, when he thanked Canada for its support but also stressed the need for more.

Last month, Defence Minister Anita Anand announced a team of Canadian Armed Forces medical trainers helping instruct Ukrainian personnel in Poland would increase from seven to 12, and that Ottawa would donate 43 short-range missiles to Ukraine.

Canada has also recently joined Latvia in delivering training to Ukrainian soldiers being promoted to junior military officers, building on a program that focuses on teaching battlefield tactics.

During the G7 summit last month, Trudeaustressed that countries pushing for a negotiated ceasefire must recognize Russia is to blame for the conflict and could end things by stopping its invasion.

"It is not a ceasefire that is needed. It is peace. And that peace can only be achieved if Russia decides to stop its ongoing invasion of a sovereign neighbour," the prime minister said.

The House of Commons foreign-affairs committee took a similar view after its February visit to the region.

"The strategic consequences of allowing Russia to benefit from its aggression would far exceed the monetary costs associated with supporting Ukraine," reads the committee's April report.

"A frozen conflict would leave Ukraine facing constant threats and blackmail."

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