Zelenskyy’s speech to Canadian lawmakers, which was streamed live on the internet, came a day before he was due to address Congress – and likely offered some insight into his demands for US lawmakers.
Zelenskyy credited Canada and other allies for their sanctions against Russian officials and entities, arms shipments and humanitarian aid.
The aid, however, has fallen short of what the president wants more than anything – the enforcement of a no-fly zone in the skies over Ukraine.
“Close the airspace, please stop the bombing – how many more cruise missiles have to fall on our cities until this happens?” Zelensky said. “When we speak with our partners…they say please wait a little longer.”
The closure of Ukrainian airspace has been a failure for Canada, the United States and other NATO members. They expressed deep concern that enforcing a no-fly zone would bring the alliance into direct conflict with Russia and likely lead to a wider war.
Zelenskyy, who was seated behind a desk with a Ukrainian flag to his right, received a standing ovation from the House of Commons, which was at full capacity for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic two years ago years.
The president also urged Canada’s huge Ukrainian diaspora – one of the largest in the world at 1.4 million – to offer “practical support” to the country.
“This is a historic moment and we need your support – your practical support,” said Zelenskyy, who refrained from specifying what he was asking for. “We hope that with your practical steps you will show that you are part of more than Ukrainian history. Remember that this is a practical and modern history of Ukraine. We want to live, we want to have peace.
Zelenskyy made public calls for foreigners to join the Ukrainian International Legion to help defend the country against Russian invasion. The National Post recently reported that so many fighters – around 550 people – have traveled from Canada to Ukraine that they now have their own battalion.
The House of Commons gave Zelenskyy a long standing ovation at the end of his speech – and shouts of “Slava Ukraini!” – or “Glory to Ukraine” – echoed through the building.
Before the speech, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Zelenskyy that in defending the right of Ukrainians to choose their own future, he was also defending the values that “form the pillars of all free and democratic countries”.
“Volodymyr, for years that I have known you, I have always considered you a champion of democracy,” Trudeau said. “And now democracies around the world are lucky to have you as their champion. Your courage, and the courage of your people, inspires us all.
Trudeau has had several conversations with Zelenskyy since Russian forces launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
A high-level Canadian insider recently told POLITICO that senior Canadian officials, including Trudeau, were engaged in a “constant flow of phone calls and text messages back and forth” with Zelenskyy, his chief of staff, people from his office and the Ukrainian Prime Minister.
Chrystia Freeland, Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly and Defense Minister Anita Anand have all been part of the regular exchanges.
“There are some really strong relationships there,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the conversations publicly.
In response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assault, Canada shipped arms and ammunition, including anti-tank systems, to Ukraine and pledged to increase its military presence on NATO’s eastern flank .
The Trudeau government has also extended loans to Ukraine, humanitarian aid and taken steps to facilitate the immigration of Ukrainians.
Canada has also sanctioned 500 individuals and entities from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, including banks, military entities, oligarchs and Putin himself.
Earlier Tuesday, Joly announced a fresh round of sanctions against 15 senior Russian officials, who Canada has accused of “enabling and supporting” Putin’s invasion.
On Wednesday, NATO defense ministers, including Anand, will meet in Brussels. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the meetings this week would mark the start of an urgent overhaul of the military alliance’s long-term strategy.
In his speech, Zelenskyy pleaded for more help – and fast.
“Unfortunately they didn’t end the war,” he said of all the military and humanitarian support so far. “You all need to do more to stop Russia, to protect Ukraine, and in doing so, to protect Europe from [the] Russian threat.