Zelensky heads to Canada after Washington in a first since invasion

Wartime president will likely ask Canada for additional military support in his surprise visit

Arpan Rai
Friday 22 September 2023 09:22 BST

Related video: Biden ‘counting on’ Congress to approve new package of support for Ukraine

Volodymyr Zelensky has landed in Canada in his latest North American visit to shore up support from Western allies against Russia’s continuing full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian president reached Canada late on Thursday for an unannounced visit shortly after he left Washington and concluded meetings with US president Joe Biden and lawmakers in Washington. He also addressed the UN annual meeting in New York on Wednesday.

Mr Zelensky was received by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau on the tarmac of the Ottawa airport, marking his first visit to the country since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year.

Visuals showed the Ukrainian leader and the country’s first lady Olena Zelenska being warmly greeted by Mr Trudeau as the three shook hands.

Mr Zelensky will address the Canadian parliament on Friday as part of his campaign. The war-time president will be joined by Mr Trudeau, who will also deliver a speech.

After delivering their speeches, Mr Zelensky and Mr Trudeau are expected to visit Toronto to meet with the local Ukrainian community.

The North American nation is home to about 1.4 million people of Ukrainian descent, close to four per cent of their population.

Mr Zelensky had previously addressed the Canadian parliament virtually in March 2022 after the invasion began and visited Canada only once before that in 2019.

It is important for the Ukrainian leader to see the extent to which Canada supports Kyiv in the war, UN envoy Bob Rae said.

“We have done a lot to help him and we need to do more. We are going to continue to do everything we can to support the Ukrainian people,” he said.

Despite being under its own duress of military spending, Canada has offered more than 8.9bn Canadian dollars (£5.3bn) to Ukraine during the course of conflict. It is the Trudeau administration’s highest per-capita direct financial aid to Ukraine in the coalition of G7 industrial nations.

Security preparations were underway in Canada days before, even as the visit remained unannounced, according to a report by public broadcaster CBC News.

Mr Zelensky will likely ask for additional military support during this visit, the report said.

Unconditional support for Ukraine has started to thin out as the country heads into another fall and winter of war, but its allies are now forced to debate how many resources they can spare.

In Washington, Mr Zelensky had to make a hard pitch for aid, stating that lack of support will result in Ukraine’s loss against Russian forces invading the country.

The counteroffensive has seen mixed results in the past few weeks, with slower gains and experts suggest the progress in the next few months can prove to be critical.

The battlefield will see rains and turn the ground muddy, making it difficult for tanks to move and ultimately slow down the pace of battle further before a gruelling winter begins.

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