Ukraine’s Zelenskyy blasts Russian ‘genocide’ before Canadian parliament

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By Webdesk

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has issued a forceful rebuke to Russian “genocide” from the floor of Canada’s Parliament, as he continues to rally support for his war-torn country.

“Moscow — now, as always — is bent on controlling Ukraine and makes use of all available means to do that, including genocide,” he told a packed House of Commons in Ottawa on Friday.

“It is genocide, what Russian occupiers are doing to Ukraine,” he said. “And when we want to win, when we call on the world to support us, it is not just about an ordinary conflict. It is about saving [the] lives of millions of people.”

Zelenskyy’s fiery speech, delivered in English, marks his latest appeal to world leaders as he completes a whirlwind tour of North America, which began earlier this week with an appearance at the United Nations in New York.

But the Ukrainian leader’s warm reception in Canada marked a stark contrast to what he experienced a day before, as he visited the US legislature in Washington, DC.

Zelenskyy faced a Republican Party more vocal about curtailing support for Ukraine, as the deadline to pass budget legislation looms, with just over a week remaining.

The Ukrainian president’s request to speak before a joint session of the US Congress was also declined, with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy telling reporters, “We just didn’t have the time.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, pauses to greet House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota ahead of his remarks before Canada’s Parliament [Dave Chan/AFP]

In Canada, leaders gave the Ukrainian president the rare honour of delivering a second address before Parliament.

He had previously spoken to the legislature via video in March 2022, just weeks after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of his country.

Few other world leaders have had the opportunity to speak twice before Canada’s Parliament.

They include such notable figures as South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, the UK’s Margaret Thatcher and US Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced Zelenskyy on Friday with remarks that included a pledge for increased aid to Ukraine.

“Canada has provided nearly nine billion [Canadian] dollars in military, financial and humanitarian support to Ukraine since Putin began his war of aggression,” Trudeau said.

“We are making a longer-term, multiyear commitment that provides predictable steady support to Ukraine. It will include 650 million [Canadian] dollars over three years for 50 armoured vehicles, including medical evacuation vehicles that will be built by Canadian workers in London, Ontario.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks ahead of the speech of Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada September 22, 2023. The photo shows a wide view of the House, with its seats filled.
The House of Commons gathered to hear Trudeau and Zelenskyy speak [Blair Gable/Reuters pool]

Trudeau also announced funding for mental health initiatives helmed by Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska, saying, “The toll of this war on the mental health and wellbeing of Ukrainians is immeasurable.”

Zelenska was in the audience, along with Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov and the family of a Canadian volunteer, Antony Ihnat, who was killed earlier this month during a Russian missile attack in Ukraine.

While much of the focus was on Russian aggression, Trudeau took a swipe at China as well in his introductory remarks, mentioning its detention and release of two Canadian citizens: Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

“There are countries that are bending or breaking the rules,” Trudeau said.

“In this era of uncertainty and resurgent great-power competition, rules are what will protect us. And it’s not enough for them to be written down somewhere. We must advocate for them, stand up for them and live by them. History will judge us on how we defend democratic values.”

He called Ukraine “the tip of the spear” in that fight.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks ahead of the speech of Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada September 22, 2023.
Trudeau speaks before inviting Zelenskyy to take the podium [Blair Gable/Reuters pool]

For his part, Zelenskyy began his speech by recognising a monument in Edmonton, Alberta, that honours the victims of the Holodomor, sometimes called the Ukrainian Famine of 1932.

Canada recognises the Holodomor as a genocide designed “to systematically destroy the Ukrainian people’s aspirations for a free and independent Ukraine”.

Erected in 1983, the Edmonton memorial was one of the first to commemorate the famine, even while Ukraine remained under Soviet rule.

“At that time, Ukraine didn’t yet have memorials commemorating the victims of genocide of Ukrainians because Ukraine was under Moscow’s control back then,” Zelenskyy said.

A lot has changed since that time, the Ukrainian president added, but not the violence perpetrated by Russia.

“This Russian aggression must end with our victory,” he said. “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.”

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