Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday started an official visit to close ally Canada, where he is guaranteed a warmer welcome than he received from some US politicians sceptical about providing more military aid. Canada is one of Kyiv’s staunchest supporters in its war with Russia, and is set to announce during the visit that it is sending more weapons to Ukraine, according to a government official.
In public remarks ahead of a bilateral meeting in Trudeau’s office , the prime minister told Zelensky the visit was “an opportunity for Canadians to express directly to Volodymyr and through him to the Ukrainian people how strongly and unequivocally we stand with Ukraine”.
In return, Zelensky said he had “a lot of warm words and thanks” from Ukraine for the military and humanitarian aid Canada had supplied. Zelensky was due to address parliament in Ottawa and then hold a news conference with Trudeau before flying to Toronto to meet business leaders and then address a rally. The Ukrainian leader earlier said he would be talking to Trudeau about defence co-operation, and would sign treaties to strengthen economic ties.
Dozens of extra police were on duty on Friday in central Ottawa, and roads leading to Parliament Hill were blocked off. The Communications Security Establishment, Canada’s signals intelligence agency, warned the cybersecurity community against malicious threats.
There are 1.4mn people of Ukrainian descent in Canada, the third most after Ukraine and Russia. Ihor Michalchyshyn, executive director of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress lobby group, said Canada was influential given its membership in both the Group of Seven leading industrial countries and Nato and noted all Canadian political parties support Ukraine.
“So I think it’s appropriate for the president to be expecting and asking more from his Canadian partners,” Michalchyshyn said in an interview. “If friends of Ukraine want Ukraine to win the war, then the only way that happens is with renewed and more military support.” In Washington, Zelensky appealed to US lawmakers on Thursday for continued support amid doubts by some Republicans over whether Congress should approve a new round of aid.
Although there are no such divisions in Canada, it does not have the deep pockets or military reserves of the United States, Germany and other major backers. Since the beginning of 2022, Canada has committed over C$8bn ($5.9bn) in aid to Ukraine, including over C$1.8bn in military assistance.
The Canadian government official said the arms deal Trudeau was likely to announce on Friday would be bigger than the C$33mn Ottawa unveiled on Sunday to help Kyiv buy missile defences. The official requested anonymity because the final details had not yet been agreed.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shake hands with New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh during a ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.