Ukrainian President Zelenskyy to visit Canada this week: sources
Murray Brewster | CBC News | Posted: Tuesday, September 19th, 2023 1:24 PM | Last Updated: September 19th
Zelenskyy to visit Ottawa and Toronto after U.S. trip
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will visit Canada later this week after his visit to the United Nations and the U.S., sources told CBC News.
Zelenskyy will visit Ottawa and Toronto during his Canadian trip, sources said.
The Ukrainian president is expected to address the UN General Assembly on Tuesday to rally support for continued help to repel Russia's invasion.
U.S. President Joe Biden will be hosting Zelenskyy at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
Zelenskyy is expected to address Parliament in Ottawa on Friday, then head to Toronto, sources said.
The Ukrainian president's trip to Canada, which was first reported by The Globe and Mail, has not officially been announced. It would be his first since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022.
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Canadian and Ukrainian government officials in Ottawa and Kyiv declined to comment on Tuesday but quiet security preparations have been underway on Parliament Hill for days.
Zelenskyy delivered a virtual address to Parliament in the early phases of the full Russian invasion.
Trudeau has visited Kyiv twice since the onset of major hostilities and the two leaders last met face-to-face at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania in July. At that meeting, G7 countries proposed a framework initiative to provide Ukraine with long-term security assurances while the Eastern European nation waits to join the western military alliance.
Canada's individual security guarantee was expected to be a matter for negotiation over the summer.
Zelenskyy is expected to ask for additional military support while in Ottawa.
Dominique Arel, chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Ottawa, said the visit comes at a critical time — when the war with Russia is not top of mind in many western nations, including Canada, and the counteroffensive is making only modest progress.
He said that this speech — Zelenskyy's second to Parliament — is perhaps more significant than the one he gave at the onset of heavy fighting because the public is generally aware of developments in the war and is following them more closely.
"Nothing replaces an address in person," Arel said. "It is important to reaffirm basic principles, why is it so fundamental for Canadians as well, not just Americans or Europeans."
Arel said that while in the United States, Republican lawmakers are questioning Washington's support for Ukraine, he has seen no evidence of wavering political support in Canada.
In his forceful address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Zelenskyy called on nations to unite to fight "the aggressor" and accused Russia of carrying out a campaign of genocide against his nation.
"While Russia is pushing the world to the final war. Ukraine is doing everything to ensure that after Russian aggression [is defeated], no one in the world will dare to attack any nation," Zelenskyy said.
"We have an aggressor that must be restrained, war crimes must be punished, deported people must come back home and the occupier must return to their own land. We must be united to make it."
Prior to the Ukrainian president's address, U.S. President Joe Biden told world leaders at the annual UN General Assembly in New York that they must stand together against Russia.
"We have to stand up to this naked aggression today and deter other would-be aggressors tomorrow," Biden told the delegates.
On Tuesday in Ottawa, the House of Commons defence committee reversed a plan to hold a closed-door briefing on the state of the war in Ukraine. The four-party committee had been set to hear testimony from senior military and Global Affairs officials in private but the meeting was opened up.
Maj.-Gen. Paul Prevost — director of the strategic joint staff, the military's nerve centre — told the committee that western allies are expecting Russia to conduct another round of mobilization with the aim of launching a renewed offensive in Ukraine.
"On this remobilization, we don't have any numbers, and I don't think Russia will publish any numbers because their first mobilization didn't work very well," Prevost said, noting how Russia's last attempt at an offensive did not result in many gains.
Using western military equipment, Ukraine's counteroffensive has made some "tactical gains" in the south and the east but "there's been no breakthrough," he said.
Prevost told MPs that Moscow likely will increase the number of drone and missile attacks on Ukraine's electrical grid as winter approaches, as it did last year.
The consensus view among military observers is that the war will drag on into 2024, he added.