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Trudeau in Kyiv today as Ukraine marks second anniversary of full-scale Russian invasion

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Ukrainian soldiers as he visits the Wall of Remembrance in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Pool/The Associated Press - image credit)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Ukrainian soldiers as he visits the Wall of Remembrance in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Pool/The Associated Press - image credit)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Kyiv today to mark the second anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The visit — his third to the country since the eruption of major hostilities — comes as western support for the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wavers and billions of dollars in military and economic aid is being held up in the U.S. Congress.

"Despite Russia's unrelenting attacks, Ukraine continues to demonstrate unwavering courage," Trudeau said in a media statement released prior to the visit. "Ukrainians are fighting for their communities, their land, their identity and their heritage.

"But they are also fighting for our collective future. They are fighting to remind the world that democracy is both important enough to die for and strong enough to win."

His remarks come just a week after Ukrainian troops were forced to withdraw from the strategic eastern city of Avdiivka, which they fought to hold for months. Ukraine's forces reportedly inflicted thousands of casualties on Russia troops.

It also comes as Zelenskyy's government tries to pass a revised bill to expand mobilization in Ukraine.

A senior Pentagon official recently estimated that Russia has taken as many as 310,000 casualties — both killed and wounded — since the full-scale invasion began.

Ukraine hasn't published its military casualty figures but informal estimates put its losses in the tens of thousands. Relief organizations estimate more than 30,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed.

Earlier this month, Ukrainian lawmakers passed through first reading a revised mobilization bill after the initial draft of the bill saw significant political and social pushback.

The country's parliament has tentatively backed the revised draft of the bill.

The legislation would lower the age of military service and make it harder to avoid the draft as Kyiv struggles to find enough soldiers to maintain its defences.

A Ukrainian soldier Pavlo "Zhulik" Sazonov, right, says good-bye to his comrade Andrii "Adam" Grinchenko of the 3rd Assault Brigade, who was injured in the battle for Andriivka, during funeral ceremony at the cemetery in Shostka, Sumy region, Ukraine, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023. Andrii's soldier friends came to pay their respects. Soldier of 3rd Assault Brigade Nom du Guerre "Zhulik" remembers the day when his commander Andrii was injured. It was Sept. 6, and they fought for Andriivka in the Donetsk region. "Zhulik" said it was difficult battle and then Andrii helped to evacuate a lot of soldiers and saved their lives.

Ukrainian soldier Pavlo 'Zhulik' Sazonov, right, says good-bye to his comrade Andrii 'Adam' Grinchenko of the 3rd Assault Brigade during a funeral ceremony at the cemetery in Shostka, Sumy region, Ukraine on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023. (Roman Hrytsyna/Associated Press)

In its current form, the legislation would lower the age at which people can be mobilized for combat duty by two years to 25. Tighter sanctions for draft evasion, including asset freezes, are also included.

Ukraine's Ambassador to Canada Yuliya Kovaliv said the mobilization bill is also about creating balance within the Armed Forces because some soldiers have been on active duty for two years without a break.

"We need to provide rotations for them," Kovaliv told host David Cochrane in a Friday interview with CBC's Power & Politics. "So the people need to go home. The people need to have a rest. And we need to recruit more people so there will be a rotation."

Kovaliv, who recently lost her 35-year-old cousin to fighting at the frontline, said Ukrainian troops' morale would improve with the delivery of more weapons from western countries.

Trudeau's visit to Kyiv followed a similar morale-boosting excursion by U.S. lawmakers, who met with Zelenskyy on Friday.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer led a congressional delegation to demonstrate U.S. support and increase the pressure on House Republicans to pass a foreign aid bill that includes a further $60 billion in assistance for Ukraine, as well as support for Israel.