The House

No reason to trust Russian rhetoric, says UN ambassador Bob Rae

Canada's ambassador to the UN Bob Rae says he doesn't believe a word that Russia says when it comes to it's invasion of Ukraine, arguing that the international community must make the cost of ongoing conflict clear to President Putin.

Russia claims first phase of 'operation' completed, moving on to scaled-back goal

Bob Rae holds a press conference regarding his appointment as ambassador to the United Nations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on July 6, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Canada's ambassador to the UN says there's no reason to trust Russia when it comes to ending its invasion of Ukraine and that the international community must get to a point where the costs of the ongoing war are clear to President Vladimir Putin.

The way to do that is to convince Russia that the international community is firm in its commitment to supplying Ukraine with substantial military, financial, humanitarian and moral support, Bob Rae said in an interview on CBC's The House that aired Saturday.

"So, it's a brutal business, but we have to convince the Russians that there is a price for their conduct and they are not going to sweep over Ukraine the way they thought they could," Rae told guest host Tom Parry.

Russia recently claimed that it had succeeded in the initial phase of what it calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine and would now work to "liberate" the Donbas region. Intense fighting continues in the country, especially around the besieged southern port city of Mariupol.

LISTEN | Ukrainian MP, Canada's ambassador to UN on war in Ukraine: 
Ukrainian MP Inna Sovsun joins The House to discuss the conflict in her country, and Canada’s ambassador to the UN Bob Rae talks about what can be done to end the war.

"Based on the experience that we've had with Russia in the last four months, I wouldn't believe a word that they said," Rae said. "I think we have to base it on what they actually do."

The lack of Russian credibility is part of what prompted Rae's team to mock a letter sent by the Russian delegation to the UN, which went viral of social media and which Rae said he endorsed.

The UN ambassador, whose previous life in politics saw him serve as NDP premier of Ontario and interim leader of the federal Liberals, noted Russia's claims early in the year that troops massed at Ukraine's border were not an invasion force.

"They were lying to us the whole time. So, why would we think that they're not lying to us now?" he said.

"We've got to get to a point where a ceasefire will be meaningful and will produce the conditions for a successful resolution to the conflict," Rae said. "It's a conflict that obviously depends a lot on what happens on the battlefield."

More military aid needed: Ukrainian MP

In a separate interview on The House, Ukrainian MP Inna Sovsun said the fighting around the capital city of Kyiv had stabilized in the past week or so but explosions could still be heard as Ukrainian and Russian forces fought over nearby cities and suburbs.

Sovsun said since the start of the war the key to protecting Ukraine has been stopping Russian airstrikes.

"You can never feel safe because of the airstrikes. Whether you are in western Ukraine, in Kyiv or anywhere else, you are always under the danger that a bomb will fall on your head," she said.

"We are not asking the world to get involved directly … but at least give us the weapons that we need in order to cover the sky in order to establish a no-fly zone ourselves."

Canada and other NATO countries have said they are continuing to work to deliver weapons to Ukraine, but have maintained the alliance's military forces will not enforce a no-fly zone, as it would risk direct, escalatory conflict with Russia.

Humanitarian crisis grows

Sovsun also described the intensifying humanitarian crisis in her country, especially the plight of children who have been forced from their homes. The UN estimates half of Ukrainian children have been displaced because of the war. Sovson's own son is one of them.

"I sent my son to western Ukraine and I was not able to see him for the first three weeks of the war. That was one of the most difficult things for me," she said.

The now over one-month-long conflict has displaced over 10 million people, with over 3.5 million fleeing Ukraine into neighbouring countries and the rest displaced internally, the UN estimates.

WATCH | Ukrainian refugee crisis intensifies: 

About 3.7 million people have fled Ukraine since war began: UN

5 months ago
Duration 4:37
The United Nations refugee agency says about 3.7 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began, with about two million of the refugees crossing into Poland.

Rae said humanitarian aid was "actually an area where the UN succeeds" and it was important for the world to continue to provide the financial and material aid necessary to help mitigate the growing crisis.

The United States has warned that there is a chance Russia will continue to escalate its war in Ukraine, prompted by the latter country's so-far-successful defence. Sovsun said she had heard about the possibility of the use of chemical weapons, but it did not change Ukraine's approach to the war.

"We cannot just surrender because of what Putin might do and just give up on our fight for our country. So, of course we are concerned, but that doesn't change what we need to do, which is win this war."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christian Paas-Lang covers federal politics for CBC News in Ottawa as an associate producer with The House and a digital writer with CBC Politics. You can reach him at christian.paas-lang@cbc.ca.

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