Trudeau says Putin responsible for ‘heinous war crimes’ during surprise visit to Ukraine

Click to play video: 'Putin responsible for ‘heinous war crimes’ in Ukraine: Trudeau'
Putin responsible for ‘heinous war crimes’ in Ukraine: Trudeau
WATCH: In a press conference alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of “heinous war crimes” in Ukraine and said Canada would support Ukraine in seeking justice for alleged crimes committed by Russian forces – May 8, 2022

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it is clear now that Russian President Vladimir Putin is responsible for “heinous war crimes” following a surprise visit to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

The brief trip was supposed to be kept under wraps until after Trudeau left Ukraine, but local officials and media broke the embargo Sunday morning.

During the visit, Trudeau met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and held a press conference in the Mariinskyi Palace, where he announced further military assistance and funding supports for Ukraine as it defends its country against the Russian invasion.

“It is clear that Vladimir Putin is responsible for heinous war crimes. There must be accountability,” Trudeau said during an impassioned speech.

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“Canada will support Ukraine as you seek justice for your people that Russia is killing and brutalizing.”

Click to play video: 'Russia-Ukraine conflict: Trudeau praises Ukrainian rail workers'
Russia-Ukraine conflict: Trudeau praises Ukrainian rail workers

During the press conference, Zelenskyy welcomed Trudeau as a “good friend of our country.”

“We are currently facing a full-fledged aggression of Russia and this is a gesture of support we highly appreciate,” Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy said Canada was second only to the US in the “scope of assistance it’s been providing to Ukraine.”

The pair had also discussed weapons Ukraine was in need of and the economic needs of the country, Zelenskyy said.

“The rebuild of Ukraine requires swift, concise movement … and we’ve agreed on how to turn that into reality.”

Click to play video: '‘An unacceptable delay’: Ottawa faces growing criticism over Ukraine refugee commitments'
‘An unacceptable delay’: Ottawa faces growing criticism over Ukraine refugee commitments
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During the press conference, Trudeau announced Canada will provide an additional $50 million in military assistance to Ukraine, including 18 drone cameras, $15 million in high-resolution satellite imagery, and up to $1 million in small arms and ammunition.

Trudeau also announced sanctions against 40 further Russian individuals – 21 oligarchs and close associates of the Russian regime and 19 individuals in the Russian defence sector. Five entities would also be sanctioned for “providing indirect or direct support to the Russian military.”

Click to play video: 'Canada sending new military aid, funding for de-mining operations to Ukraine: Trudeau'
Canada sending new military aid, funding for de-mining operations to Ukraine: Trudeau

Trudeau also pledged funding for de-mining operations as well as a $25 million grant to the World Food Programme for food security in Ukraine and a removal of all trade tariffs for Ukrainian imports coming into Canada for the next year.

He said Canada will also provide new funding for women’s organizations, human rights defenders and civil society groups.

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“We will continue to do the work of being there for you with whatever we can, with whatever you need,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau was later asked by Ukrainian media if he was aware that in accordance with sanctions placed on him by Putin, he would not be allowed to enter Russia.

He said: “If Vladimir Putin wants to continue handing out sanctions he’s going to have to sanction about 38 million Canadians before we even begin to notice,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau tours destroyed Ukrainian towns

Ukrainian officials have not been shy in emphasizing both their need for more supplies as well as their gratitude for Canadian support in providing weapons, money and diplomatic support.

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Now two-and-a-half months into Russia’s invasion of the country, the bulk of Russian forces have retreated into the contested eastern Donbas region, where fighting has intensified.

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Many expect Putin to level a warning to the West to not interfere during a Red Square speech in Moscow on Monday marking the World War Two commemoration known as “Victory Day.”

Russian army tanks roll during a dress rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, May 7, 2022. The parade will take place at Moscow’s Red Square on May 9 to celebrate 77 years of the victory in WWII. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko). (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Trudeau spoke of the symbolism of the day which commemorated when the Allies “conquered fascism.”

“What Vladimir Putin is doing today, these past weeks, brings shame on the millions of people, on the millions of Russians who sacrificed in the name of freedom. That is Putin’s legacy.”

Trudeau toured the town of Irpin, just outside Kyiv, which was heavily bombarded by Russian shelling during the advance on the capital. He also visited Bucha, where retreating Russian forces in March left behind a path of horrific brutality and suffering that quickly spurred accusations of war crimes.

His security convoy included more than 20 vehicles.

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Trudeau said he had “witnessed first-hand the brutality of Russia’s illegal war” and said Russian President Vladimir Putin must face consequences for committing war crimes.

“I also witnessed the resilience of Ukrainians as people rebuild, as people stood even outnumbered eight to one to defend not just their homes but the entire city behind them of Kyiv,” Trudeau said.

The Prime Minister then applauded Zelenskyy’s leadership throughout the past two months, calling him an “inspiration.”

He also pointed out that Sunday was Mother’s Day in Canada and wanted to express his “admiration and respect for all the mothers in Ukraine.”

At the end of his address, Trudeau said: “Today we send a resounding message to the world that Canada and our allies continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine,” before saying “Slava Ukraini.”

When asked if Canada could have done more to help Ukraine, Zelenskyy reiterated a common plea that the country was lacking heavy weapons and encouraged the assembled media to “use the internet” to determine which countries could provide those weapons.

“We all know which countries have the technical capabilities and have the weapons that fortunately are not used on the territory of those countries. Which can provide us with those weapons – we all know this.”

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He said financial support was second to weapons in terms of necessary assistance and that Canada had offered enough of that too, primarily through the C$1 billion in new loan resources via the International Monetary Fund and C$500 million in military aid that was announced on Thursday.

Zelenskyy then went on to say that Canada was the “fourth country that we also cannot ask more from” – behind the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.

Click to play video: 'Reopening Canadian embassy in Kyiv ‘an incredible honour’: Trudeau'
Reopening Canadian embassy in Kyiv ‘an incredible honour’: Trudeau

During his visit, Trudeau and Zelenskyy participated in the G7 Leaders’ meeting, where leaders of the world’s seven most advanced economies vowed to wean their countries off of Russian energy and to keep pushing to isolate the country in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine.

The G7 leaders said in a joint statement that they plan to also “elevate” a campaign against Russian elites who support President Vladimir Putin.

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Speaking after the meeting on Russia’s nuclear threats, Trudeau said: “No amount of irresponsible sabre rattling by Vladimir Putin will deter the G7 or NATO allies and allies of democracy around the world in our resolve to stand with Ukraine and to stand against Putin’s illegal and irresponsible invasion.”

Trudeau said the world was more determined to see Russia lose the war after witnessing the atrocities committed in cities such as Mariupol and Bucha and Putin had made some “profound miscalculations” in invading Ukraine.

“Firstly, he miscalculated deeply the courage, the resolve, the strength of the Ukrainian people and of the Ukrainian leader. And secondly he vastly underestimated the determination and the ability of countries around the world to stand against his actions and stand in support of our Ukrainian friends.”

Canadian embassy reopens in Kyiv

Hours earlier, Trudeau visited the Canadian embassy in Kyiv, where he was joined by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly and Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine Larisa Galadza to raise the Canadian flag once again.

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The Canadian government announced the closure of the embassy on February 12 due to concerns over a Russian invasion. The embassy first moved to the city of Lviv and then to Poland.

However, the flag-raising ceremony briefly went awry when the chosen flagpole’s mechanisms failed and the group were forced around the side of the building to try again.

As it rose up the pole, Trudeau, Freeland and Joly applauded.

“This flag came down on February 13 and we’re really glad to be raising it again above the Canadian embassy,” Trudeau said.

“Having our Canadian flag fly over the streets of Kyiv once again is just another testament to the strength and solidarity of Canadians and Ukrainians and how we continue to be with them.”

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At the conclusion of the ceremony he thanked the embassy’s security guard, Sergii Maier, for staying at the embassy while it was closed. Maier, who has worked at the embassy for five years, said he was simply doing his job.

Embassy staff will resume diplomatic operations in Kyiv, as part of a gradual restoring of Canada’s full diplomatic presence and services, a statement later said. However, until further notice, consular and immigration services will continue to be provided in Poland and other European cities.

Later, when he was asked during the press conference why it had taken so long to re-open the Canadian embassy, Trudeau dodged the question, simply saying it was “an incredible honour” to re-open it after it had been closed for months.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canadian ministers raise the Canadian flag at the embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine. Credit: Ashleigh Stewart/Global News. Ashleigh Stewart/Global News

Trudeau’s visit came on a historic day for Ukraine.

May 8 is the country’s Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation, which commemorates the victims of the Second World War. It comes on the eve of Russia’s so-called Victory Day.

Ukraine stopped celebrating Victory Day in 2015, after the invasion of the Donbas, when it switched the holiday to a day earlier to coincide with Victory in Europe Day, celebrated by the Allies to mark the end of the war.

Zelenskyy released a powerful black-and-white video on Sunday to mark the occasion, comparing the Russian invasion of his country to the fight against fascism in the Second World War.

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In the video, which spans 15 minutes, Zelenskyy stands outside a bombed apartment building in Borodyanka, near Kyiv, and asks: “Never again? Try telling Ukraine that.”

De-mining focus for Ukraine

About a dozen members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces were in attendance during the press conference between Trudeau and Zelenskyy, to receive commendations for their work on demining the country.

Part of Trudeau’s new supports announced in Kyiv was funding for de-mining operations.

One of those on hand to receive a special medal for his demining work was a two-year-old Jack Russell Terrier named Patron. The de-mining dog found online fame during his work demining the city of Chernihiv.

However, he didn’t seem to be particularly fond of Trudeau – and reacted by barking loudly when the Canadian prime minister attempted to step forward to pass on his own congratulations.

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His handler Mykhailo Illiev told Global News before the event that this was his first day off since the war began.

“We don’t have any time when we can relax,” he said.

“People are coming back and we need to do our work. They want to rebuild their houses and we need to clean the territory.”

He said he and Patron hadn’t set out to “be popular.”

“I am just doing my work, what is needed for the people. No one has a goal of getting an award,” he said.

With files from Global’s Amanda Connolly

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