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Canadians mark grim anniversary of Russian invasion of Ukraine as violence continues

OTTAWA — Events marking the second anniversary of Russia's deadly invasion of Ukraine were planned across Canada on Saturday, as head of the organization representing Ukrainian Canadians urged people to honour those who have been killed in the war.

Alexandra Chyczij, national president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, said the day marked a grim milestone many hoped would never come.

“One year ago today we prayed that we would not be standing here today marking the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine,” Chyczij said in a video shared on social media Saturday.

“The Ukrainian Canadian Congress joins with all Canadians to pay tribute to the courage of the Ukrainian people and to honour the memory of the thousands of innocent people murdered by Russia’s genocidal war of aggression,” she said.

Chyczij said the only way the war can end is with Ukraine’s victory.

“Anything short of that (victory) is just delaying the inevitable reckoning with a murderous, despotic and totalitarian regime,” Chyczij said. “Anything short of that is inviting further invasion from Putin, but this time into NATO countries.”

She thanked Canada for welcoming more than 230,000 Ukrainians seeking refuge from the violence, and said Canada and its allies must provide Ukraine with weapons and economic support.

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his long-feared invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. His paratroopers raided theHostomel airport, near Kyiv, just hours after the start of what he called a "special military operation" in the country.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the airfield Saturday morning, alongside leaders from the European Commission, Italy and Belgium. The Western leaders arrived shortly after a Russian drone attack struck a residential building in the southern city of Odesa, killing at least one person.

More than 10,000 civilians have been killed in the two years of conflict, and more than 20,000 have been injured, according to the United Nations. However, the international organization says the actual numbers are likely much higher.

Trudeau signed a new security agreement while in the Ukrainian capital, aimed at fortifying both the Ukrainian military and the country’s struggling economy. The deal includes some $320 million in new military spending, which is due by the end of the year, plus $75 million for demining efforts and intelligence gathering.

In Ottawa, federal Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre vowed that "Canada will always stand with Ukraine" in a statement posted to social media.

"With unshakeable resolve and determination, Ukrainian people have fought back," he wrote. "They haven’t given up, and neither will we."

Trudeau has accused Poilievre of abandoning Ukraine because of the Conservatives' opposition to the Canada-Ukraine trade agreement.

Tories have said that they support Ukraine but they oppose the legislation because the updated deal says both countries aim to promote carbon pricing.

Trade Minister Mary Ng has said the agreement will enable Canadian businesses to eventually help with Ukraine’s economic reconstruction and post-war recovery. Ukraine already has a carbon price in place and Canadian officials have said that language is non-binding.

— With files from the Associated Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2024.

The Canadian Press