Trudeau makes surprise visit to Ukraine to reopen Canadian Embassy, meet Zelenskyy

Trudeau is in the National Capital Region and taking part in a meeting of G7 leaders on the situation in Ukraine

The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made an unannounced visit Sunday to Ukraine, where he reopened the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv and expressed unwavering support for the embattled country.

Trudeau met Volodymyr Zelenskyy in person for the first time since Russia began its invasion in late February, appearing with the Ukrainian president at a news conference.

He announced $50 million in fresh Canadian military support for Ukraine, including drone cameras, satellite imagery, small arms and ammunition, as well as funding for demining operations.

Canada is giving $25 million to the World Food Program for food security in Ukraine and will remove trade tariffs on all Ukrainian imports coming to Canada for the next year, Trudeau said.

In addition, Ottawa is levying sanctions on 40 more Russian individuals and entities — oligarchs and close associates of the regime and the defence sector, all complicit in Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, he said.

Canada is also providing money to support and protect women’s organizations, human rights defenders and civil society, Trudeau added.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly joined Trudeau on the trip.

They began the day in Irpin, a city badly damaged during Russia’s attempt to take Kyiv early in the war. 

Trudeau said he witnessed the resilience of Ukrainians as people rebuild their shattered world.

“It was a true inspiration to see people step up to defend their lives, defend their community, defend a bright future for themselves, for the families in the country they love,” he said.

“It is 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.”

Canada began scaling down its diplomatic presence in Ukraine in late January as intelligence warned of an impending Russian invasion.

Representatives from most western countries fled Ukraine as the war erupted, but more than two dozen have already gone back, even as the conflict drags on.

Several of Canada’s G7 allies have already returned to Kyiv — France and Italy the third week of April, and the United Kingdom as of last week.

On Sunday, Trudeau, Freeland and Joly arrived at the embassy in Kyiv with a heavily armed security detail. 

Larisa Galadza, Canada’s ambassador to Ukraine, joined them in a flag-raising ceremony. They ended up raising the flag at the side of the building after the first flagpole chosen turned out to be broken.

“I think it’s a testament to how the Ukrainian people have been so strong and resilient,” Trudeau said.

“And having our Canadian flag fly over the streets of Kyiv once again is just another testament to the strength and solidarity of Canadians and Ukrainians, and how we continue to be with them.”

The Canadian Press was made aware of Trudeau’s trip on the condition it not be reported until it was made public, for security reasons.

The Associated Press reported that Jill Biden made a surprise visit to the western part of Ukraine today to meet Olena Zelenska, the first lady, for Mother’s Day.

Other world leaders have travelled to Kyiv in recent weeks to show solidarity with Ukraine, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also went to Kyiv last week.

The public itinerary for Trudeau posted Saturday suggested he would be in the National Capital Region Sunday and taking part in a meeting of G7 leaders on the situation in Ukraine. However, the itinerary was updated Sunday to note Trudeau’s presence in Kyiv.

G7 leaders collectively committed Sunday to phasing out dependency on Russian energy in ways that provide time for the world to secure alternative supplies, and to prohibit or otherwise prevent the provision of key services on which Moscow depends.

They also pledged to continue to take action against Russian banks connected to the global economy, to fight Russian propaganda and to elevate their campaign against financial elites and family members who support Putin.

Trudeau’s visit took place as dozens of Ukrainians were feared dead after a Russian bomb destroyed a school sheltering about 90 people in the eastern part of the country.

The governor of Luhansk province said Sunday that 30 people were rescued from the rubble of the school in the village of Bilohorivka but the rest probably didn’t survive.

Elsewhere, more explosions rocked the Black Sea port of Odesa.

Ukrainian soldiers making a last stand at a steel mill in the besieged city of Mariupol said they wouldn’t surrender following the evacuation of civilians from the sprawling site. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 8, 2022.

— With files from The Associated Press.

Feature image – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in Ottawa, Monday, May 2, 2022. The Prime Minister’s Office says Trudeau has made an unannounced visit to Ukraine amid the Russian invasion. The Canadian Press – Adrian Wyld.

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