As Allies visit Ukraine’s capital, Canada’s absence stands out
In the month since Russia’s withdrawal from northern Ukraine, the capital Kyiv has seen a frenzy of high-profile visitors: 11 prime ministers, the Austrian chancellor, US secretaries of state and defense , the Speaker of the House, the UN Secretary General – even Hollywood star Angelina Jolie.
Canada did not even send a minister.
Ukraine noticed it.
“When you physically see a friend, an ally… present in the capital, that would mean a lot,” said Andriy Shevchenko, who until recently served as Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada.
It’s not just a matter of visiting.
Twenty-seven countries have reopened diplomatic posts in Kyiv, but the Canadian embassy in Kyiv remains closed, vacated before the start of the war.
“Canada was one of the first countries to move the embassy. We don’t want Canada to be the last to return,” Shevchenko said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said reopening plans were underway.
“We need to ensure that the security situation on the ground allows it,” his office said in a statement.
Others went faster. Poland and Georgia never left. Italy and the Netherlands have reopened their missions, as has the United Kingdom.
Kyiv is ‘the right place to be’, says British ambassador The Guardian newspaper.
With the largest Ukrainian diaspora outside the former Soviet states, Canada has claimed to be one of Kyiv’s biggest supporters, which makes the absence of a high-level visit and an open embassy all the more more confusing to some.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office did not directly respond to a question about a possible visit, but said in a statement that he and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “remain in frequent contact, in addition to regular contacts within the government. federal government with their Ukrainian counterparts”.
Why a visit is important
Many VIP tours in the Ukrainian capital include stops north of the city where Russia has left a trail of destruction on its abortive northern front.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres visited Bucha, scene of mass graves, and Irpin, a leafy suburb outside the capital where half of the buildings were razed during the invasion initial of Russia.
In a joint press conference concluding the visit, Zelensky said the leaders “must be here and I am grateful to the General Secretary for coming to Kyiv.”
Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov visited the smoldering ruins of Irpin and told a CBC News team that it was imperative that world leaders visit because “it’s very different when you make public statements in the comfort of your office. It’s very different to see it firsthand.”
Canadian contributions to Ukraine
Since the beginning of the final chapter of nearly a decade of on-and-off conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the federal government has pledged its support. This process accelerated after the February invasion.
But some countries have been much more generous, relative to the size of their economies.
Poland, for example, is approaching 1% of its total GDP in financial and military support contributions.
Canada did not rank among the top 12 donors in a youracker created by the University of Kiel in Germany at the end of March.
Since then, Canada has pledged an additional $500 million in support.
The Biden administration has requested an additional US$33 billion in aid from Ukraine, the majority for purchases or transfers of military equipment.
American and Canadian soldiers are training Ukrainian soldiers — outside Ukraine — in the use of sophisticated M777 howitzers, which have a range of 30 kilometres. When equipped with high-precision Excalibur shells, they are accurate to less than 10 meters.
“We greatly appreciate all Canadian assistance, weapons, military training and financial support,” former Ambassador Shevchenko said.
Canada gave Ukraine four of these big guns. Australia, with a smaller population, offered six. The United States transferred 90 of them.
European nations also bought or shipped military hardware from their own stocks, although they were more exposed to Russian retaliation.
Many remain dependent on Russian gas to fuel their economy. Poland and Bulgaria were isolated last week. Others may follow. Canada, however, is not dependent on Russian gas and, due to its geography, is less vulnerable to Russian orbit.