Ukraine’s president met with close ally Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday, who vowed further aid to the war-torn country, as Volodymyr Zelensky finished the third part of a tour aimed at rallying international support.
Zelensky, who arrived in Ottawa late Thursday, addressed the United Nations earlier this week and stopped in Washington on Thursday for meetings with the US Congress and President Joe Biden, who promised the coming of US tanks to augment Ukraine’s armament.
Canada has the world’s second largest Ukrainian diaspora, and Zelensky expressed gratitude to parliament for the support offered to Kyiv since Russian troops crossed the Ukrainian border 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 Indigenous word 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 to continue standing “strongly and unequivocally” with the pro-Western countries, announcing an additional Can$650 million over three years on Friday.
The promise includes 50 armored vehicles and training for F-16 fighter pilots, in addition to the $6.6 billion (Can$8.9 billion) in aid already provided by Ottawa.
“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 parliament.
“We will be with you and all heroes of this courageous fight for as long as it takes,” he said.
Later in the day, Zelensky was scheduled to fly to Toronto with Trudeau for discussions with business leaders and members of the Ukrainian-Canadian community.
With the Republican Party in Washington becoming increasingly hostile to the Ukrainian cause and symptoms of war fatigue in Europe, Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland expressed concern about how strong 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 scenes — firm handshakes across a huge cabinet table and displays of unity in the Oval Office — was the fact that Zelensky’s second journey to Washington was considerably more difficult than the first.
When he went in December, he was greeted as a hero, but this time he spent his closed-door talks in the US Congress urgently attempting to overcome Republican war fatigue.
Hardline Republicans are threatening to deny Democratic Vice President Joe Biden’s proposal for a new $24 billion aid package for Ukraine, which has now been embroiled in a fierce spending debate that could result in a US government shutdown.
To date, Congress has already approved $100 billion in aid, including $43 billion in weaponry.