Zelenskiy thanks Canada, says its aid helped save thousands of lives

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) -Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday offered a heartfelt thanks to Canada for its assistance in the war against Russia, saying Ottawa's aid had helped save thousands of lives.

Zelenskiy made his remarks in a speech to the Parliament in Canada, where the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been one of the most vocal supporters of Ukraine's defense against the Russian invasion of February 2022.

Since the beginning of 2022, Canada has committed over C$8 billion ($5.9 billion) in aid to Ukraine, including over C$1.8 billion in military assistance.

"Canadian support for Ukraine with weapons and equipment has allowed us to save thousands of lives," said Zelenskiy, making his first visit to Canada since the start of the war.

"Canada's leadership in sanctions against Russia for this war and terror really encouraged others in the world to follow your lead," he said to loud applause.

Although a counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces to reclaim territory occupied by Russian troops has bogged down, Zelenskiy reiterated comments from last month in which he predicted victory.

"So that Russia will never bring back genocide to Ukraine, and will never ever try to do so, Moscow must lose once and for all, and it will lose," he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada would be offering an extra C$650 million in military aid over three years to supply Ukraine with 50 armored vehicles. Ottawa would also send trainers to help Ukrainian pilots on western F-16 fighter jets.

Canada will provide what Trudeau called substantial macro economic support in 2024, but he gave no details.

"Canada's support for Ukraine is unequivocal and always will be," he told a joint news conference.

"Ukraine is standing up and fighting and dying for the rules based order that protects all of us. It is in Canadians' interests to ensure that Ukraine wins this war."

There are 1.4 million people of Ukrainian descent in Canada, the third most after Ukraine and Russia.

Trudeau said Ottawa was imposing sanctions on a further 63 Russian individuals and entities for their role in the war.

Ukraine and Canada will also help set up a group of experts to provide advice to decision makers on the seizure and forfeiture of Russian assets, including central bank assets.

Zelenskiy flew in from Washington where he appealed to U.S. lawmakers on Thursday for continued support amid doubts by some Republicans over whether Congress should approve more aid.

Although there are no such divisions in Canada, it does not have the deep pockets or military reserves of the United States, Germany and other major backers.

Dozens of extra police were on duty on Friday in central Ottawa, and roads leading to Parliament Hill were blocked off.

The Communications Security Establishment, Canada's signals intelligence agency, warned the cybersecurity community against malicious threats.

($1 = 1.3485 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by David Ljunggren, editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)