OTTAWA – At an April 1 news conference in Ottawa conducted in English, an all-female group of five members of the Ukrainian Parliament called on Canada to provide more lethal weapons and financial aid to their country while increasing sanctions against Russia, which Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called on the Group of 20 (G-20) to expel from its ranks.
Lesia Zaburanna, a member of the Servant of the People political party – of which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is a member – said the war underway in her country is not between Ukraine and Russia, but between “evil and democratic values.”
“We highly appreciate Canadian support during the period of our independence over the last 30 years,” she said. “Canada is one of the best friends of our country.”
But Ms. Zaburanna, chair of the Ukrainian parliamentary Sub-committee on Public Expenditures, had three major requests for Canada, starting with the immediate need for weaponry, and extending to further sanctions against Russia and more financial assistance to Ukraine.
“Because of the war, we have losses of $550 million. A lot of our cities and villages were absolutely destroyed,” she said.
Anastasia Radina, also a member of the Servant of the People party and another member of Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, cautioned that Russia “cannot be trusted” in its negotiations with Ukraine.
“The only way to get real negotiations with Russia is to get military superiority on the ground,” she said, noting that Ukraine was “told to make compromises” when Russia illegally annexed Crimea and installed “puppet regimes” in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
“This is did not bring peace to Ukraine. We learned with our blood and tears that [these]compromises with Russia only lead to Russia mobilizing more money, more military strength and hitting us even harder and inflicting more indescribable pain to our people,” said Ms. Radina, who also chairs Ukraine’s parliamentary Committee on Anti-Corruption Policy.
“Our approach is that Ukraine has to win the war, has to keep Russian soldiers out of our land and this is our only option for us to receive peace,” said Ms. Radina, who asked the Canadian government to consider supplying to her country items from the list of heavy weaponry requested by Ukraine’s defense ministry, which includes tanks and anti-aircraft systems.
Former Ukrainian vice-prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, chair of the parliamentary Committee on European Union Integration, said that “Ukraine is on fire and Russia is trying to erase it from the map of the world by bombarding our cities, killing our citizens indiscriminately – driving people from their homes,” which, she noted, has resulted in millions of refugees.
She called for a global embargo on Russian oil and gas.
“We have to stop the European Union from buying Russian fossil fuels,” said Ms. Klympush-Tsintsadze, who explained that since February 24, when Russia invaded Ukraine, the EU has spent more than 23 billion Euros purchasing Russian energy.
“We are calling on all banking systems of the Russian Federation to be under sanctions – and [the world should be]isolating Russia internationally in cultural and sports organizations,” she said. “We are calling for Russian vessels being prohibited from your ports, but also Canadian vessels to not go into Russian ports.”
“We believe that offense is the best defense right now for us,” Ms. Klympush-Tsintsadze said.
Yevheniya Kravchuk, deputy head of the Servant of the People party in the Verkhovna Rada and deputy chair of the parliamentary Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy, told journalists at the news conference that when she and her fellow members of parliament met with Mr. Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, a Ukrainian Canadian, on March 31, her cellphone sent an alert about an air siren triggered in her Kyiv neighborhood.
“That meant my eight-year-old daughter had to go into the basement instead of going to school,” said Ms. Kravchuk, a journalist by profession, whose husband is a police officer and has joined the fight to protect Ukraine from Russian forces.
“The Ukrainian Army has been liberating numerous villages in the Kyiv region and in the south,” she explained, adding that soldiers need more than rifles.
“We have to have heavy weaponry to keep Russians from our territory,” Ms. Kravchuk said.
“If we talk about the end of this war, we mean winning this war. Other than that, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin will not stop and [he will]think he can go to other countries and humiliate the Western world, [which]has to be firm and has to be fast in giving us support if we want to keep peace, democracy, the rule of law, freedom of speech and whatever values we believe together,” Ms. Kravchuk said.
She explained that to date, the war has left a quarter of Ukraine’s population of just over 44 million displaced, and about four million – mainly women and children – have fled the country.
“Mariupol has become a mass graveyard,” said Ms. Kravchuk. She estimated that the number of fatalities in the city is about 5,000 people, and she said that number is likely to grow.
“The Russians have not let humanitarian aid enter the city – and over 100,000 people are locked there in basements. All the buildings are ruined; [there is]no water, no electricity,” Ms. Kravchuk said.
She also said that over 4,000 Russian war crimes have been documented.
“There hasn’t been a war crime that the Russian Army hasn’t committed in Ukraine,” Ms. Kravchuk said, adding that she presented Canadian MPs who belong to the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group with a file prepared by Ukraine’s Office of the Prosecutor General on “the killing of children.” The Ukrainian government believes that 148 children have been killed in Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale war on February 24.
Furthermore, 40,000 Ukrainians have been forcibly removed from Ukraine to Russia and Belarus, which, as Ms. Kravchuk said, is “kidnapping.”
She added that the International Committee of the Red Cross’s plan to open an office in Russia’s southern port city of Rostov-on-Don has “enlightened Russians to kidnap our people and bring them to Russia, which is unacceptable.”
Maria Ionova, chair of the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Policy and Interparliamentary Cooperation, said the Russians are “acting worse than Nazis.”
“They are killing our children, raping our women,” Ms. Ionova said. “They are destroying and damaging our hospitals, educational centers, critical infrastructure – they are taking hostage democratically elected local representatives, journalists, priests, civil-society activists, paramedics.”
“Russians are a people of war. We are a people of peace,” she said, singling out Putin, whom she said “has to be punished.” She also applauded Canada’s support for an International Criminal Court investigation into alleged Russian war crimes and a separate inquiry under Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.
Ukraine has launched its own war-crimes investigation following the discovery of a mass grave containing 421 bodies of civilians in the town of Bucha, 25 miles northwest of Kyiv, on April 3.
At the Ottawa news conference two days before, Ms. Ionova said that Ukraine does not “want to be the next Aleppo,” referencing the Syrian city in which Russia conducted a brutal military operation in 2016.
Ms. Zaburanna said that she expected that Ms. Freeland, who also serves as Canada’s finance minister, “will increase financial assistance to Ukraine” when she unveils Canada’s federal budget on April 7.
During their meeting with Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Freeland, the Ukrainian members of parliament pressed the need for Russia to be “isolated” and “expelled” from the G-20, said Ms. Klympush-Tsintsadze.
“We are happy that the prime minster and the Canadian government feels the same way,” she said, adding that Russia also needs to lose its seat on the United Nations Security Council.
On March 31, Mr. Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa that “when it comes to Vladimir Putin sitting around that table with the rest of us, that’s going to be extraordinarily difficult for us and unproductive for the G-20.”
“Bottom line, it can’t be business as usual to have Vladimir Putin sitting around the table pretending that everything is okay because it’s not okay, and it’s his fault.”
G-20 leaders are scheduled to meet in Bali, Indonesia, from November 15-16, and Russia’s ambassador to that country has indicated that Putin plans to attend.
Ms. Klympush-Tsintsadze also said that Russian diplomats, who are in effect “spies and propagandists, have to be expelled from embassies around the world and from bureaucracies in international organizations.”
“These people are murderers, rapists, looters and liars and have nothing to do with the civilized world,” she said.
“We believe that Putin, together with Russian authorities and the officers and soldiers committing war crimes on our land will be held responsible,” Ms. Klympush-Tsintsadze said.