Melanie Joly in kyiv will launch a global campaign to get Russia to return Ukrainian children

OTAWA –

Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly is in Ukraine for a two-day visit focused on seeking the return of children kidnapped by Russia.

“Our support for Ukraine’s independent future remains unwavering,” he said at a news conference Friday in kyiv.

“Ukraine’s supporters will stay the course; we cannot afford to lose confidence or falter, even (for) a moment.”

Joly met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, on Friday. He is also scheduled to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The Canadian government has not hinted at any major funding announcements to complement the $9.7 billion Ottawa has promised for Ukraine through military, development and emigration programs.

Instead, Joly launched an initiative with Ukraine seeking global help to pressure 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 almost a year ago for allegedly forcing children from eastern Ukraine to be adopted by Russian families, while attempting to strip them of any Ukrainian identity.

The new Canadian project aims to raise awareness of the issue and coordinate promotional campaigns.

“Canada will use its diplomatic network around the world to reach out, as if they were Canadian children,” Joly said, adding that diplomats will talk about this with a wide variety of countries, including Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and Qatar.

Ottawa also said it will offer whatever technical expertise Ukraine needs to help children return, and so far fewer than 400 have returned from Russia.

During the trip, Joly also plans to meet with Ukrainians affected by 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 committed to supporting Ukraine “for as long as necessary,” including support to contain the risk of Russian aggression after the eventual end of the conflict.

However, public support for Ukraine has declined in places like the United States amid persistent inflation and war in the Middle East.

Canada has yet to sign a formal bilateral security commitment for Ukraine, and negotiations have persisted for months over how much Ottawa will commit to help protect the country.

Kuleba praised Ottawa’s support, saying through an interpreter that “Canada is one of our closest friends,” in part because it raises issues at G7 meetings.

He said negotiations for a security compromise are going well and are not marred by diplomatic niceties. “We can discuss things, essentially, quite honestly and openly,” she said.

Next month will mark the 10th anniversary of the Russian 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.

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