Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will be in Ottawa later this week in his first visit to Canada since Russia began its invasion of the eastern European country in February 2022, sources tell Global News.
Zelenskyy is making the trip following his visit to the U.S. and the United Nations General Assembly that is currently underway.
According to sources and first reported by The Canadian Press, the Ukrainian president is expected to address Parliament on Friday before travelling to Toronto, though details have not officially been made public.
On Tuesday, Zelenskyy addressed the UN General Assembly calling on countries to continue their support as Ukrainian troops continue to fend off Russia’s advances.
Zelenskyy’s expected Canadian address won’t be his first before Parliament, having delivered one just a few weeks after the war began. However, he did so via video conference at that time.
Several Canadian officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly, have visited Ukraine since the invasion began to reiterate their support and discuss what the country needs in terms of reconstruction and other aid needed.
Canada has been a fervent supporter of Ukraine during the war, sending more than $1 billion to the country in terms of military assistance and helping those fleeing the violence by providing a temporary safe haven to Ukrainians.
More than double the amount for military assistance has been sent in the form of financial assistance. Just this weekend, Canada joined several allies to send air defence missiles, with Defence Minister Bill Blair announcing a $33-million contribution — part of the $500-million fund Trudeau announced earlier in June.
Trudeau and Zelenskyy speak often, and the two recently met in person at the NATO summit in Lithuania in July.
It was at that meeting NATO leaders said Ukraine should be able to join the military alliance at some point in the future, but did not offer Kyiv an immediate invitation or offer a timeline for the process — drawing frustration from Zelenskyy.
During his speech before the UN General Assembly, Zelenskyy told world leaders that Russia was “weaponizing” everything from food and energy to abducted children in its war with Ukraine.
Both Kyiv and its allies have said the country’s cause is a battle for the rule of international law, as well as the sovereignty of every country with a powerful and potentially expansionist neighbour. As well, in the wake of the ending of the Black Sea Grain deal, other politicians have also pointed to it as a fight for stability of global food, fuel and other supplies.
U.S. President Joe Biden pledged support once again during his own address at the UN amid a round of applause, in which Zelenskyy was seen clapping from Ukraine’s seat at the assembly.
“We must stand up to this naked aggression today and deter other would-be aggressors tomorrow,” he said.
Allied leaders also convened at a U.S. military base on Tuesday ahead of Zelenskyy’s address to discuss next steps, but one key sticking point is whether to supply Kyiv with longer-range missiles that it insists are needed to hit Russian troops and facilities at a safe distance. The U.S. has been wary of the request, worried it may allow Ukraine to strike Russian territory and provoke Moscow.
Zelenskyy also is due to speak Wednesday at a UN Security Council meeting about Ukraine. Russia is a permanent, veto-wielding member of the council, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is expected to make remarks.
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Asked whether he would stay in the room to listen, Zelenskyy said, “I don’t know how it will be, really.”
Zelenskyy’s visit to Washington, D.C., prior to his travel to Canada, comes as the U.S. Congress is debating Biden’s request to provide at least US$21 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine aid.
An administration official told The Associated Press that Zelenskyy would meet with Biden at the White House on Thursday. It is his first visit to the country this year, after visiting last December and addressing a joint meeting of Congress.
U.S. politicians are divided on providing additional funding for Ukraine, with some conservative Republican lawmakers pushing for broad federal spending cuts and some specifically looking to stop money to Ukraine.
— with files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press