As Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to levy nuclear threats and “crazy messaging,” the most important thing for the world to do is to stand strong and not back down from supporting Ukraine, says Canada’s ambassador to the eastern European country.
In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Larisa Galadza said the advice she hears over and over from Ukrainians is about both the need for more weapons to win back “every square metre” of territory, and for the world to refuse to be cowed by Putin’s threats.
“Those are not new threats. That is something that we’ve heard from Putin before,” she said. “And as the Ukrainians say, they don’t believe them but you have to take them seriously. And the Ukrainians themselves say the way to do that is to show strength in the face of those threats and to not give in, and to not stand down.”
Galadza, who has been Canada’s ambassador to Ukraine since 2019, spoke from Kyiv where — just like in Canada — many children are returning to the school year as autumn arrives.
But not all of them can, she said.
“A lot of children have not gone back to school because they don’t have bomb shelters.”
Russian forces have repeatedly struck civilian targets during the seven-month invasion, including hospitals, schools, daycares and residential buildings. And as their forces retreat amid a fierce Ukrainian counteroffensive, the carnage of the Russian assault is increasingly laid clear.
“The exhumation of bodies continues in Izium — 445 bodies,” Galadza added. “And that’s just this week.”
Izium is the site of a mass grave uncovered as Ukrainian forces reclaimed territory that had been under Russian occupation in eastern Ukraine.
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Similar mass graves have already been found in Ukrainian cities of Bucha and Mariupol — atrocities for which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Russia must be held to account.
Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed those calls for accountability in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly. He said Putin’s recent nuclear threats, as well as his mobilization of Russian people forced to fight in the invasion, make it clear the Russian president is “failing.”
“Putin was wrong and he is, right now, failing and flailing in his response to the situation,” Trudeau said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly told reporters on Thursday that when it comes to accountability for Russia, Canada is working to try to move forward a prosecution for the crime of aggression.
“There are conversations happening at the UN regarding the crime of aggression, in the context of Ukraine. We are definitely supportive and will make sure we bring this issue to the forefront,” she said.
A United Nations inquiry into Russian atrocities in Ukraine determined on Thursday that war crimes including rape, torture and confinement of children have been committed.
Investigators from the commission, created by the UN human rights council in March, visited 27 places and interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses. They found evidence of a large number of executions including bodies with tied hands, slit throats and gunshot wounds to the head, Reuters reported, with investigators identifying victims of sexual violence aged between four and 82.
Galadza said as Ukraine continues to push into Russian-occupied areas, Putin is looking for a “quick move,” hence the snap referendums taking place over recent days in occupied territories.
She said Canada and allies have been clear they will not recognize those referendums, and that Canada is going to keep working “to undermine the lies, the disinformation, the crazy messaging, to isolate Russia with additional sanctions, to support Ukraine in defending its territory and and taking it back.”
– with a file from Reuters