Putin will pay for ‘war crimes he’s committed in Ukraine,’ Justin Trudeau says


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BERLIN—Canada and European leaders condemned Russia’s bombing of a Ukrainian maternity hospital as an atrocity. And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Russian President Vladimir Putin would be held accountable by the International Criminal Court for “war crimes he’s committed in Ukraine.”

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/03/2022 (384 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

BERLIN—Canada and European leaders condemned Russia’s bombing of a Ukrainian maternity hospital as an atrocity. And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Russian President Vladimir Putin would be held accountable by the International Criminal Court for “war crimes he’s committed in Ukraine.”

Trudeau made the comment after delivering a foreign policy speech in Berlin on the need for democracies to make a “constant effort” to counter apathy, disinformation, low voter turnout and the rise of populism that may have strengthened the hand of authoritarian leaders like Putin.

But Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Canada and others to act now.

Zelenskyy called out global leaders who have refused a no-fly zone over Ukraine, posting video images of what he said was “Mariupol. Direct strike of Russian troops at the maternity hospital.”

“People, children are under the wreckage. Atrocity! How much longer will the world be an accomplice ignoring terror? Close the sky right now! Stop the killings! You have power but you seem to be losing humanity,” Zelenskyy tweeted.

Diplomatic efforts are intensifying to find a solution to the crisis in Ukraine with Germany and France reaching out to China’s President Xi Jinping for help in appealing to Putin to stop the increasingly deadly invasion. China says it supports efforts to find a diplomatic solution and avoid escalation.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, at an earlier news conference after a bilateral meeting with Trudeau, called the attacks on Ukrainian “cities, schools and houses” a “catastrophe.”

“What we need now is a ceasefire. We need the fighting to end,” said Scholz, who has spoken directly with Putin, a channel of diplomacy that is providing a glimmer of hope according to two senior sources, one Canadian and one German, who spoke to the Star.

Scholz said he, French President Emmanuel Macron and China’s Xi agreed “the military solution to the conflict doesn’t make any sense. What we need now is a diplomatic solution.”

“And we hope that a solution can be found also in the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine and that we can identify a path leading out of this crisis.”

But with Russia’s breaches of two previous ceasefires, Ukraine-Russia talks have foundered.

Trudeau at the evening event admitted the world will need to reflect on how it failed to curb Putin’s aggressions in the past.

“We could have responded stronger to Crimea. We could have done a lot of different things,” said Trudeau.

But he said Canada, its G7 allies, Europe and NATO are clear-eyed and united on who is to blame for the war in Ukraine.

“This was Putin’s mistake. Putin’s fault, Putin’s choice to do this,” Trudeau said.

And he insisted economic pressures will ultimately succeed in defeating Russia.

“We have the tools to damage the Putin regime far more effectively than we ever could with tanks and missiles.”

Still, on a day when images of the Mariupol hospital highlighted Russia’s deliberate bombardment of civilian populations, the inability or unwillingness of NATO to directly confront Putin despite Zelenskyy’s desperate pleas was front and centre.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said, “When I look at those pictures, I have to stop looking at them. It is an atrocity, what is happening in Ukraine.”

Freeland said more co-ordinated international sanctions, military assistance and humanitarian aid are all in the works, yet the deputy prime minister who is of Ukrainian descent offered a frank and grim assessment.

“The reality is, when it comes to the actual fighting, the Ukrainians are fighting alone, but they’re fighting. They’re fighting for all of us, but they’re fighting alone. So I have to say, speaking for myself as a person, I find those appeals (by Zelenskyy for help) incredibly moving.”

Asked if Canada, which has pledged to accept an unlimited number of Ukrainian refugees, would airlift people out of bordering countries that cannot cope with the influx, Freeland said, “Everything is on the table.”

She said a core group of cabinet ministers late last year began “preparing for this terrible eventuality,” and “we called it ‘the God Forbid scenario.’ ”

And she said the shifting “geopolitical” and “geoeconomic” events are changing Canada’s calculations for its upcoming budget, but said only Canada is considering how it should spend on defence.

Freeland and Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly refused to elaborate on what more efforts would be made for refugees.

On Thursday Trudeau travels to Poland which is on the front lines of receiving most of the 2 million Ukrainians the UN said have fled the war in the two weeks since it began.

At the Canadian embassy in Berlin, bedecked in the yellow and blue Ukrainian flag, the number of refugees has spiked from about four or five a day to more than 160 a day earlier this week — and that’s just one European city.

Yet there are no increased staffing resources here to cope. Freeland and Joly said the best way for individuals to be processed quickly is to apply online to a special fast-tracked emergency authorization for travel to Canada.

Earlier Trudeau said Zelenskyy has accepted an offer to address Canada’s Parliament in “the near future.”

He also announced Canada would contribute some $50 million in additional aid, including sophisticated cameras to outfit surveillance drones, on a day when Ukraine’s pleas to other global leaders to send fighter jets appeared to run out of runway.

The Pentagon rejected an offer by Poland to give the United States its MiG-29 fighter jets for use by Ukraine’s pilots, a plan it hoped the U.S. would assist by supplying American fighter jets to Poland to “backfill.”

At a news conference standing next to Trudeau, Germany’s Scholz, said it is not an option for his country either.

“We have to consider carefully and weigh carefully what we deliver. And fighter airplanes are not amongst the goods we will deliver, weapons we intend to deliver,” said Scholz.

It was a rare display of disagreement among NATO allies who’ve shown an unprecedented degree of unity and support for Ukraine.

At the evening event hosted by the Munich Security Conference and the Atlantic Brücke — groups focused on international security issues — Trudeau predicted Ukraine will “unquestionably” survive as a sovereign country.

“The question is, how long it’s going to take, how we manage to get there with the least amount of loss possible,” the prime minister said.

Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamacc

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