Trudeau in Ukraine: Prime Minister makes a surprise visit in the middle of the war

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a surprise trip to Ukraine on Sunday amid the ongoing Russian invasion.

He was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Foreign Minister Melanie Joly. They arrived in kyiv this morning.

The Prime Minister’s Office says it plans to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to show Canada’s support for the country and its people.

Oleksandr Markushyn, the mayor of Irpin, posted photos on his social media account showing the prime minister touring the devastation in the kyiv suburb. The city was heavily bombed before the Russian forces withdrew.

Trudeau also raised the Canadian flag to mark the reopening of the Canadian embassy in kyiv along with Freeland and Joly. The embassy had been closed since early February as Western intelligence services warned that a Russian invasion seemed imminent. Diplomatic staff were initially relocated to the western city of Lviv, but have since all relocated to Poland.

“This flag fell on February 13 and we are very happy to raise it again,” the prime minister told reporters at the embassy. “For the Canadian flag to fly in kyiv once again is an incredible testament to the strength and solidarity of Canadians in Ukraine.”

A first attempt to raise the flag was hampered by a cable failure, before a second successful attempt in a ceremony shared by Canadian officials and Sergii Maier, one of the Ukrainian security guards guarding the empty building.

Maier received personal thanks from the Prime Minister, who described the flag-raising as an important symbolic moment of friendship between Canada and Ukraine.

Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine’s former ambassador to Canada, says Trudeau’s visit sends a “hugely” important signal.

“It’s not just another sign of solidarity,” he said Sunday on CTV’s Question Period.

“(Trudeau) has a very decent understanding of what’s going on here. But now, he had a chance to see it with his own eyes,” Shevchenko said. “I think it’s very important that he has this understanding.”

The timing of Trudeau’s visit also falls a day before Russian Victory Day, which celebrates the Soviet Union’s World War II victory over Nazi Germany. Some observers believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use the May 9 celebrations to declare a symbolic victory over Ukraine or herald further escalations in the conflict.

“I think that those who are here in kyiv have very much appreciated the timing of this visit,” the former ambassador said. “Yes, it is true that the Russians are obsessed with this mythology of May 9 and there is a lot of news and talk about what can happen in the next 24 hours.”

Trudeau also plans to hold virtual meetings with G7 leaders to discuss the war in Ukraine.

US First Lady Jill Biden also made an unannounced visit to the country for Mother’s Day and met with local mothers and her Ukrainian counterpart in the southwestern city of Uzhhorod.

With archives from The Canadian Press

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