Ukraine's Zelensky looks to shore up support in Canada visit
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Ukraine's Zelensky looks to shore up support in Canada visit

Zelensky, who in July attended the NATO summit in Vilnius, will meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose country has the second-largest Ukrainian diaspora in the world
Zelensky, who in July attended the NATO summit in Vilnius, will meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose country has the second-largest Ukrainian diaspora in the world

OTTAWA - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address Canada's parliament and meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa on Friday, seeking to rally more support for his country as it fights Russia's invasion.

OTTAWA - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address Canada's parliament and meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa on Friday, seeking to rally more support for his country as it fights Russia's invasion.

Trudeau was on hand to greet Zelensky when he landed in the capital Ottawa late Thursday, following a visit to the United States where he won warm words of support -- and weapons -- from US President Joe Biden, but also confronted skeptical Republicans who want to cut off aid.

Canada has provided Ukraine with $6.6 billion (CAD$8.9 billion) in military and other aid since the Russian invasion began in February 2022.

"The Ukrainian people are the tip of the spear that is determining the future of the 21st century. Canada remains unwavering in our support to the people of Ukraine," Trudeau said in a statement ahead of Zelensky's arrival.

The Ukrainian president will meet Trudeau in Ottawa, where Zelensky will also address parliament before the pair head to Toronto for talks with business leaders and members of the Ukrainian-Canadian community.

Canadian officials said Zelensky is expected to press upon Canadians that its fight is existential and that it needs help.

"Am I worried about whether the rest of the world, the rest of our allies will continue to be resolute? Of course. You have to work hard to maintain that support, to maintain that coalition," Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told public broadcaster CBC late Thursday.

"Canada is doing that every single day because we believe our national security and our most fundamental values are at stake here," she said.

Canada is home to the world's second-largest Ukrainian diaspora after Russia, with about 1.36 million people of Ukrainian origin living here, according to government data.

Canada's aid to Ukraine has included more than $1.3 billion in military aid, including Leopard 2 tanks, air defense and artillery systems, anti-tank weapons, drones and other equipment.

It has also trained more than 36,000 Ukrainian soldiers.

"If we can play a role in stiffening the spines of some of our other friends and allies we'll be happy to do that too," Freeland added.

- 'We're with you' -

On Thursday, Zelensky confronted potentially fracturing political support in the United States for his country's demands for more arms to push back the Russian invasion.

"We're with you and we're staying with you," Biden told Zelensky after their top teams met at the White House.

Wearing his trademark olive green military-style shirt, Zelensky said Ukraine "has exactly what our soldiers need" after Biden announced a new package of US military aid, including sophisticated air defense weapons.

But behind the visuals -- firm handshakes across a grand cabinet table and shows of solidarity in the Oval Office -- lay the fact that Zelensky's second wartime trip to Washington was far tougher than the first.

He received a hero's welcome when he visited in December but this time, he spent his closed-door meetings in the US Congress desperately trying to overcome growing war fatigue from Republicans.

Hardline Republicans are threatening to block Democrat Biden's request for a fresh $24 billion aid package for Ukraine, and it has now become caught up in a bitter spending battle that could spark a US government shutdown.

- 'No alternative' -

Biden said alongside Zelensky that there was "no alternative" to backing the Ukraine funding, adding that he was "counting on the good judgment of the United States Congress."

The key part of Zelensky's visit to Washington was to a deeply divided Congress.

The hard-right faction dominating the Republican Party is increasingly adamant that the aid spigot should be turned off, with Congress having already approved $100 billion in aid to date, including $43 billion in weaponry.

On Capitol Hill, Zelensky got a notably discreet welcome from the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, who is having trouble keeping a lid on internal party squabbling over US spending in Ukraine.

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