Canada is pledging millions of dollars to Ukrainian organizations working to support survivors of sexual violence from the Russian invasion, as well as rebuilding and de-mining efforts, as the one-year mark of Russia’s war on Ukraine nears.
The funding comes amid a renewed call for Ottawa to play a leading role in the pursuit of justice and accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in relation to Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly wrapped up a low-key two-day visit to Ukraine on Thursday, where she met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s foreign affairs minister, top prosecutor and other officials to discuss Canada’s military support and efforts to hold Russia accountable for alleged war crimes.
“Ukraine and Canada are more than friends, we are family. On this third visit to the country, we have borne witness not only to the devastation caused by (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin’s callous attacks on civilian infrastructure but also to the unrelenting strength and resilience of the Ukrainian people,” she said in a news release.
“Canada will continue to support them on the path toward peace and pursue accountability for the horrific crimes being committed across Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
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Joly’s office said in the release that Zelenskyy thanked Canada for recent donations of military equipment, including Leopard 2 battle tanks and a National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System. Joly also met with Olena Zelenska, Ukraine’s first lady, to discuss the impact of the war on the women and children of Ukraine.
“They discussed the need to increase capacity within Ukraine to respond to cases of conflict-related sexual violence, to support survivors and to pursue accountability through Ukrainian and international courts for these heinous crimes,” her office said.
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Joly then met with Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, to discuss the needs involved in reconstruction. Canada will help to help de-mine the streets, playgrounds and fields of Ukraine, Joly’s office said. She also visited the HALO Trust Fund to see Canadian workers train Ukrainian de-miners, and raise awareness in communities about how to avoid mines and other unexploded ordinances.
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In a meeting with Ukraine’s Prosecutor General, Andriy Kostin, Joly’s office said the minister pledged Canada’s support for Ukraine pursuit for war crimes justice including through the work of what is known as the Core Group, of which Canada is a member.
The Core Group is examining the idea of establishing a special tribunal for the crime of aggression, which is illegal under international law, and finding the most effective means to hold Russia to account for both aggression, alleged war crimes and sexual violence.
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Joly pledged a total of $21.2 million and approximately $18.2 million of that funding will be partly or fully funded through pledges already made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in June 2022.
Trudeau announced $151.7 million in new humanitarian, development, and peace and security support for Ukraine following a G7 meeting that month.
In a separate document, the government provides a breakdown of the funding allocations, which include $7.5 million for de-mining efforts, $5 million for sexual-violence prevention efforts and $4.8M for police reforms.
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Ottawa should play a leading role in the pursuit of justice and accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in relation to Russia’s war against Ukraine, the House of Common’s foreign affairs committee said this week.
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The committee released its report into Russia’s invasion, and made a series of recommendations, including that the federal government work with Ukraine and other international partners in support of the documentation, investigation, and prosecution of sexual-and-gender-based violence committed during Russia’s war against Ukraine, and provide support to survivors.
MPs on that committee are planning to tour countries that neighbour Ukraine to compare responses to the invasion.
Since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, 2022, the federal government said it has committed over $5 billion in multifaceted support to Ukraine, including over $2.6 billion in assistance, more than $1.2 billion in military aid, $320 million in humanitarian aid, $96 million in development assistance and more than $68 million in security and stabilization programming.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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