Canada should immediately supply Ukraine with heavy weapons now that Russia has reportedly begun a ground offensive to take control of the country's east, says the head of an organization that represents Ukrainian Canadians.
Ihor Michalchyshyn, executive director of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) in Ottawa, said the weapons are needed now to destroy Russian tanks. He said the Russia is committing war crimes against the Ukrainian people and its actions amount to genocide.
Canada has provided military and humanitarian aid but heavy weapons are needed because Ukrainians need to defend themselves, he said. The federal budget pledged an additional $500 million in military aid to Ukraine.
"We're very disturbed by what we're seeing. We are talking to our friends and family in Ukraine who are experiencing it live and in real time. It's a feeling of helplessness in terms of not being able to go and do more, but we as Canada can do more," he said.
Michalchyshyn said Canadians are showing support for Ukraine across the county and the federal government needs to act. People are holding fundraising events and are displaying Ukrainian flags in their homes and businesses, he said.
"It's not enough to just have words. We have to have these words follow up with actions very quickly as the situation continues to devolve," he said.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces need tanks, armoured personnel carriers, artillery, multiple launch rocket systems, anti-aircraft systems and fighter jets, as well as naval defences and anti-ship missiles for coastal defence, the UCC said in an April 14 news release.
Darya Balyasnikova , a marketing manager in Oakville, Ont, with most of her relatives in Ukraine, said she is watching events unfold with growing anxiety. Her family is from Kyiv but many have fled to safety in various cities and villages farther west.
That includes Lviv, which is close to the Polish border, has seen only sporadic attacks until now and has been a haven for refugees fleeing the fighting. On Monday, Russia bombarded Lviv, killing at least seven people.
"Basically, everybody is displaced," she said.
"And everyone is just hoping for this nightmare to end. But with the latest news that came out of Lviv today, it's really not looking good. Even that safe haven is now under a big question because now that was hit by missiles."
Since the war began on Feb. 24, it has been "absolutely surreal," she said. Every day, she checks in with family and checks the news.
"And hearing news like we heard today is absolutely heartbreaking because the first question on my mind is: Is my family alive?"
Balyasnikova said the Canadian government needs to do more to help Ukrainians come to Canada. She said the immigration process is "cumbersome" and "tricky" for people who don't speak English.
On Monday, the Ukrainian president said in a video address that Russia has launched an offensive to take control of eastern Ukraine.
"Now we can already state that the Russian troops have begun the battle for the Donbas," Volodymyr Zelensky said.
He said a "significant part of the entire Russian army is now concentrated on this offensive."