Russian President Vladimir Putin is responsible for “war crimes“, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said during a surprise visit to Ukraine, while announcing new weapons for Kyiv and imposing new sanctions against Russia.
“It is clear that Vladimir Putin is responsible for heinous war crimes,” Trudeau said on Sunday at a news conference in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
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He added that “there must be accountability” and that he had “witnessed firsthand the brutality of Russia’s illegal war”.
“Today, I’m announcing more military assistance, drone cameras, satellite imagery, small arms, ammunition and other support, including funding for demining operations,” Trudeau said.
“And we’re bringing forward new sanctions on 40 Russian individuals and five entities, oligarchs and close associates of the regime in the defence sector, all of them complicit in Putin’s war.”
The Group of Seven (G7) bloc of nations, of which Canada is a member, announced a new package of sanctions on Sunday and pledged to reduce its dependency on Russian energy, including oil imports.
Canada will also provide $25m to the United Nations’ World Food Programme as part of efforts to uphold food security and remove trade tariffs on all Ukrainian imports to Canada for next year.
Trudeau visited the town of Irpin outside Kyiv, the focal point of fierce battles between Ukrainian and Russian troops before the Russians withdrew late in March.
He said Canada was reopening its embassy in the Ukrainian capital.
The visit came as United States First Lady Jill Biden held a surprise Mother’s Day meeting with her Ukrainian counterpart, First Lady Olena Zelenska, to show US support for the embattled nation.
“I wanted to come on Mother’s Day,” the US first lady told Zelenska as they met at a school in the eastern Slovakian city of Kosice that was being used to temporarily house Ukrainian migrants.
“I thought it was important to show the Ukrainian people that this war has to stop and this war has been brutal and that the people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine.”
Biden spent about two hours in Ukraine, travelling by vehicle to the town of Uzhhorod, about a 10-minute drive from the Slovakian border.
Zelenska thanked Biden for her “courageous” act. “We understand what it takes for the US first lady to come here during a war when military actions are taking place every day, where the air sirens are happening every day – even today,” she said.
Biden became the latest high-profile American to enter Ukraine during the war, while Zelenska’s public appearance was her first since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
US President Joe Biden visited Poland in March but said he was disappointed he could not cross the border and go into Ukraine to see conditions “firsthand” due to security reasons.
The White House said last week that the president “would love to visit”, but there were no plans for him to do so at this time.