Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to mobilize hundreds of thousands of Russian reservists in its war against Ukraine, vowing Canada’s continued support against the “illegal” invasion.
Trudeau told reporters in New York City at the United Nations General Assembly that Putin’s speech Wednesday morning — in which he also appeared to make a veiled reference to Russia’s nuclear capability — represented “an irresponsible and dangerous escalation” in the war.
“Putin’s behaviour only goes to show his invasion of Ukraine is failing,” he said.
“Putin has fundamentally miscalculated in a whole bunch of different ways,” he added later in the press conference. “Putin was wrong and he is, right now, failing and flailing in his response to the situation.”
Trudeau’s statement marked the latest condemnation by Canadian lawmakers of Putin’s partial mobilization announcement — the first such mobilization in Russia since World War II.
Defence Minister Anita Anand said in her own tweet that Canada would continue to provide “comprehensive” military aid to Ukraine as the war drags on.
Speaking in Ottawa, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters it is time for Canada to “double down” on its support for Ukraine now that its forces are driving Russian troops out of occupied territories and appears to be “winning” on the battlefield.
“I do think we could be at a turning point in Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine,” she said, adding the next step was for the Russian people to decisively show Putin they are against the “pointless” war.
Putin’s decision to mobilize reservists comes amid humiliating battlefield losses for the Kremlin’s forces in recent weeks, as Ukrainian fighters push on a fierce counteroffensive to reclaim occupied territories.
The Russian leader, in a seven-minute televised address to the nation aired on Wednesday morning, also warned the West that he isn’t bluffing over using all the means at his disposal to protect Russia’s territory, which appeared to be a reference to Russia’s nuclear capability.
The total number of reservists to be called up could be as high as 300,000, officials said.
Even a partial mobilization is likely to increase dismay, or sow doubt, among Russians about the war in Ukraine. Shortly after Putin’s address, Russian media reported a sharp spike in demand for plane tickets abroad amid an apparent scramble to leave despite exorbitant prices for flights. Protests were also reported in several cities, including Moscow.
Earlier Wednesday, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault told journalists in New York that Putin is growing “desperate” but added Canada and its allies won’t be distracted from supporting Ukraine or from working together on pressing global priorities like climate change.
“What I would say is that Canada will continue to be there, steadfast with our Ukrainian friends and allies,” said Guilbeault when asked about the timing of Putin’s speech on the eve of the annual U.N. gathering.
“Clearly, President Putin is desperate to find ways of people paying attention to what he’s doing. I don’t think it’s working,” Guilbeault added.
“We’re moving internationally on these important priorities despite what President Putin is saying.”
In her own statement, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said the mobilization would serve to “implicate even more Russians in his desperate war of aggression, forcing them to inflict even more death and destriction on their neighbours in Ukraine.”
“Hundreds of thousands will now be made complicit in President Putin’s heinous war crimes,” she said.
Joly also condemned the planned “sham” referendums to annex regions of Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region that have been seized by Russia and Kremlin-backed separatists.
“These phony exercises with predetermined results will have zero legitimacy, and Canada will not recognize them,” she said. “Borders will not change. Ukraine’s territory will remain Ukraine’s.”
U.S. President Joe Biden addressed Putin’s mobilization announcement during a speech to the General Assembly on Wednesday morning, calling the invasion of Ukraine a “war chosen by one man.”
He said over the past year, the world has faced “great upheaval” with the invasion on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, record-breaking heat, droughts and floods, and food shortages. Biden called on the world to “be clear, firm and unwavering in our resolve” against Russia.
“Russia has shamelessly violated the core tenets of the United Nations charter,” said Biden, adding that “President Putin has made overt nuclear threats against Europe.”
“Now Russia is calling up more soldiers … the Kremlin is organizing a sham referendum to try to annex parts of Ukraine in an extremely significant violation of the UN Charter. The world should see these outrageous events for what they are,” he continued.
“This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple … that should make your blood run cold.”
Later in the day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the global gathering by video, when he insisted his country would prevail in repelling Russia’s attack and forcing its troops out.
He said Putin’s decision to mobilize reservists suggests Moscow is not serious about negotiating an end to the conflict.
— with files from The Associated Press.