OTTAWA — Hours after the United Nations sided with Ukraine and called on Russia to withdraw from its territory, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the vote and called on Canada for more sanctions and “restrictive measures” to stop the bombardment of his country.
Zelenskyy, who is entrenched in Kyiv as Russian troops advance on the capital, took to Twitter to praise the UN’s support, then to say he had spoken to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and “the thanked for leadership in imposing anti-Russian sanctions.”
He said he also “insisted on the need to extend the restrictive measures. The shelling of civilians in Ukraine must stop immediately,” Zelenskyy said.
Zelenskyy unsuccessfully pleaded with European leaders to create a no-fly zone over his country – a move that NATO nations, including Canada, rejected as one that would escalate into all-out war with Russia with nuclear weapons.
But the embattled Ukrainian leader hailed the powerful show of support from the UN General Assembly, which voted 141 to 5 to condemn the Russian invasion and demanded that Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders”. .”
Zelenskyy called it “unprecedented” and “a strong demand for Russia to immediately stop the treacherous attack.” He said he was grateful to “each and every state that voted yes. You have chosen the right side of the story.
The Ukrainian president tweeted about his evening phone call with Trudeau – which took place around 10:30 p.m. Kyiv time.
Later, a senior Canadian government official said Zelenskyy had called for more sanctions and faster implementation of those already announced, including banning major Russian banks from dealing with the SWIFT international transaction system.
The SWIFT system is based in Brussels, and some European countries are still reluctant to include some Russian banks that process their payments for Russian energy supply.
To date, Canada has imposed punitive sanctions alongside other G7 and NATO allies against Russian President Vladimir Putin, several of his top political aides, including his Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Finance, Defense and Justice, Russian lawmakers in the Duma or the Russian Parliament, as well as dozens of Russian oligarchs and family members close to Putin’s inner circle, some of whom hold his personal fortune.
Canada also sent $19 million in lethal weapons, including anti-tank weapons, and approximately $37 million in non-lethal equipment, night vision gear, helmets and body armor. The federal government has also provided more than $150 million in humanitarian assistance since the invasion began and has expedited study and work permits for Ukrainian nationals already in the pipeline or those here looking to extend. their holiday.
Conservatives and New Democrats in Canada are urging Trudeau to impose more sanctions directly on other Russian oligarchs who hold assets in Canada.
Tory MP James Bezan used the parliamentary privilege of the House of Commons, as did British MPs, to name two people without fear of prosecution, saying that “Canada has not yet sanctioned some of its closest friends and advisers.
“Russian oligarch and politician Konstantin Babkin, director of Buhler Industries in Manitoba, said in 2014 that Russia shouldn’t stop at Crimea and last month backed Russia’s current actions. Putin insider Roman Abramovich, owner of Evraz, which has operations in Western Canada, supplies steel to build Russian tanks,” Bezan said. “When will the Prime Minister finally sanction the Russian oligarchs for supporting Putin’s war machine?
Trudeau responded that Canada is aligning itself with its Western allies, adding, “We continue to seek more people to sanction. We continue to seek next steps. We will take further steps, but we will do so in a coordinated manner with all allies together, because that’s what has the most impact.
Canada’s sanctions included the unprecedented decision to oust several major Russian banks and financial institutions from the SWIFT international transaction system, which prevented many banks – and Russians – from doing business internationally, as well as a ban on the Russian Central Bank’s ability to access and use its foreign currency-denominated reserves to support its flagging currency, the rouble.
The Conservatives are calling on Ottawa to expel Russian Ambassador Oleg Stepanov and other embassy staff. The three opposition parties want to allow Ukrainians fleeing the war visa-free access to Canada, if they can get that far.
Trudeau told the Commons on Wednesday that his government was continuing to look at “all the different ways to positively impact and end the lives of Ukrainians.”
The federal government on Wednesday sent mixed signals about whether it would compensate Canadian companies or industries harmed by sanctions imposed on Russians or Russian companies.
Earlier in the day, Trudeau said the sanctions “obviously come at a cost at home. This is how international trade works,” echoing a warning issued the day before by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Freeland said Canadians should be prepared for this impact as the cost of fighting for democracy and a rules-based world order.
But Trudeau suggested in French that because punitive sanctions are needed to persuade Putin to reverse his decision to invade Ukraine, the government could try to offset any pain that may be felt here in Canada.
“Yes, there will be industries and people who will be affected. We will see what we can do to compensate, but we also know that we have friends, partners, allies in Europe who will suffer much more, and our concern is to be there for each other others,” Trudeau said. his way into a national caucus meeting.
Requests for clarification to the offices of Trudeau and Freeland were not immediately answered, and an afternoon press conference was abruptly canceled, rescheduled for Thursday.
However, Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne downplayed the need for compensation and the scale of Canada’s trade with Russia, saying it represents less than 1% of Canadian imports and exports.
“Of course, we expect some impact on the price of gas” at the pump, Champagne said, because it is linked to world prices “which can fluctuate”.
There will also likely be impacts on wheat and food prices, he said, adding that he has previously reported to the Competition Bureau that price changes in Canada should be based on changes in the global market.
Overall, Champagne said, the impact for Canada “is likely to be very moderate.”