In an interview with The West Block guest host Eric Sorenson, Larisa Galadza spoke from Poland where the ambassador and Canada’s diplomatic staff are operating amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Galadza and the Canadian embassy staff had been based in Kyiv before relocating to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv as the invasion began, and subsequently left the country for Poland.
“It’s like a sea of humanity. It’s people standing in lineups, many of them on foot, but a lot of them are still in cars coming over the border,” Galadza said in describing Ukrainians fleeing their country.
She said any assumptions on the part of Putin that the West will move on or get over his invasion of Ukraine is just “another miscalculation.”
“It’s not the first miscalculation, I think, that Russia has made,” she added.
“The response that we’re seeing from our like-minded governments, the response that we’re seeing from Ukrainians themselves, is unprecedented.”
Some 1.2 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee as a result of the first land war on the European continent since the Second World War. Thousands of others have chosen to remain in order to fight with the Ukrainian resistance pushing back against the Russian advance.
Scores are now dead, the exact numbers still hazy amid the fog of Russian shelling and destruction.
The United Nations said as of Tuesday it had tracked 752 civilians injured or killed in Ukraine. Of that number, 227 were civilian deaths – 15 of those children.
However, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights warned that “the real figures will be far higher, since numerous other casualties are pending confirmation, and information from some areas engaged in intense hostilities has been delayed.”
“Most civilian casualties were caused by the use of heavy artillery, multi-launch rocket systems and airstrikes in populated areas, with concerning reports of use of cluster munitions striking civilian targets,” said Michelle Bachelet.
“Massive damage to residential buildings has been inflicted.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said last week that conversations with Putin indicate he has no plans to stop until he has invaded the whole of Ukraine, raising fresh questions about what the West is willing to do if the sanctions fail to stop the continued invasion.
“If NATO and the rest of the world is not going to intervene in a way that will turn around what Russia is doing, should Ukrainians be expected to just carry on as long as possible, dying in great numbers before this is over?” Sorenson asked.
“Ukrainians are doing what they need to do for the moment, knowing that all the systems in the world are working to support them,” said Galadza. “Everyone is doing what they need to do and for the moment, that means that Ukrainians inside Ukraine need to put up the fight of their lives.”
The violence has sparked calls from the Ukrainian government to call for a NATO no-fly zone — something NATO leaders, as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have ruled out due to the fact enforcing one would mean shooting down Russian jets.
Experts say the overwhelming concern behind the refusal to implement a no-fly zone or send troops to aid Ukraine is about what would happen in the event a NATO soldier killed a Russian one.
“Keeping that conflict short of a nuclear confrontation would be very difficult,” said Dani Belo, a PhD candidate and fellow at Carleton University’s Norman Patterson School of International Affairs.
Putin has repeatedly raised the threat of nuclear strikes in warnings to the West not to intervene.
Trudeau acknowledged on Monday that G7 and NATO leaders have discussed concerns about the potential of Putin acting on that threat. Those comments, though, came just days before Russian troops attacked and seized control of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said on Friday that it was only “by the grace of God” that “the world narrowly averted a nuclear catastrophe” from the attack.