OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly is in Ukraine for a two−day visit focused on seeking the return of children abducted by Russia.
Joly arrives in Kyiv today, and is set to meet with her Ukrainian counterpart as well as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The Canadian government has not hinted at any large funding announcement to top up the $9.7 billion that Ottawa has pledged for Ukraine through military, development and emigration programs.
Instead, Joly is set to launch an initiative with Ukraine that seeks global help in pressuring Russia to return thousands of Ukrainian children it deported from conflict zones, in violation of international law.
The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin nearly a year ago for allegedly forcing children in eastern Ukraine to be adopted into Russian families, while trying to strip them of any Ukrainian identity.
The new Canadian project aims to raise awareness of the issue and co−ordinate advocacy campaigns.
Ottawa says it also will offer any technical expertise Ukraine needs to help get children returned, with fewer than 400 making it back from Russia so far.
During the trip, Joly is also planning to meet with Ukrainians affected by the war, including children, as well as organizations that support victims of sexual and gender−based violence and war−related trauma.
Canada and its allies have pledged to support Ukraine for "as long as it takes," including support to contain the risk of Russian aggression after the eventual end to the conflict.
Yet public support for Ukraine has waned in places like the U.S. amid persistent inflation and war in the Middle East.
Canada still hasn’t signed a formal bilateral security commitment for Ukraine, with negotiations persisting for months over how much Ottawa will commit to help secure the country.
Next month will mark the tenth anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Crimea, and two years since Moscow began its full−scale invasion of Ukraine.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2024.
Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press