Diplomatic steps vital to end war in Ukraine

The resilience of Ukraine and its people since missiles and bombs began besieging its cities and Russian forces invaded the country a year ago has inspired many parts of the free world.

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The resilience of Ukraine and its people since missiles and bombs began besieging its cities and Russian forces invaded the country a year ago has inspired many parts of the free world.

Many thought columns of Russian tanks and infantry would quickly overrun Ukraine’s military and take over the capital, Kyiv, perhaps claiming even more Ukrainian territory than Russia had taken already in 2014, when it annexed Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine.

But, living up to the title of its national anthem, Ukraine has not yet perished. Instead, Ukrainians have rallied around the country’s soldiers and a leader from an unlikely source: a television sitcom.

There were those who thought comedic actor Volodymyr Zelenskyy would be a joke when he was elected Ukraine’s president in 2019 after portraying a school teacher who rose to the presidency in the series Servant of the People.

If those included Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, they have been badly mistaken.

Instead, Mr. Zelenskyy’s boldness has been compared with that of Winston Churchill, the former British prime minister who led his country during some of the darkest times of the Second World War.

Shortly after Russian air attacks rocked Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities on Feb. 24, 2022, Mr. Zelenskyy emerged on video with other members of his government — not in suits and ties but in military fatigues — to vow they would fight the Russian incursion side by side with the Ukrainian people.

While Ukrainians have taken up arms and have taken back much of the territory Russia claimed a year ago, Mr. Zelenskyy has used his best weapon — a stern resolve when speaking in front of a camera — to convince world leaders to help Ukraine fight Russia’s terror campaign.

His charismatic pleas for military aid, which led him to speak to the United States Congress last December, brought Ukraine weapons few thought western countries such as Canada would provide a year ago: advanced artillery batteries; anti-missile defence systems to protect civilians and the nation’s infrastructure; and most recently, heavy tanks.

These upgraded armaments might help tip the war in Ukraine’s favour, but the months ahead will be long and deadly, whether or not Ukraine is able to regain all of its lost territory, as Mr. Zelenskyy demands before any peace talks with Russia can begin.

Ukraine has amassed military equipment during the winter as fighting has reached a standstill, but Russian forces have marshalled their resources for the war’s next phase and consolidated their position in Ukraine.

Expect Russian missile attacks to continue to devastate families and shatter cities.

Expect Russian missile attacks — which have killed thousands of civilians and destroyed apartment blocks, schools and monuments commemorating Ukrainian history — to continue to devastate families and shatter cities.

More Ukrainians will flee the country they call home and join many others in places such as Manitoba, a province with a history of Ukrainian migration that grows richer with the arrival of each planeload of refugees.

When U.S. President Joe Biden visited Kyiv on Feb. 19 to meet with Mr. Zelenskyy and pay his respects at a memorial to the fallen, he declared “unwavering commitment” to Ukraine and its people.

His pledge must include work on the diplomatic front to convince all countries to isolate Russia, including China, a superpower that has remained neutral in the conflict.

Information that Chinese companies have provided “lethal support” to Russia — a charge China denies — led Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, to warn China’s top diplomat at a recent security conference in Munich about “serious consequences” should Chinese send Russia weapons.

Talks with China are vital. A Russian military fortified with China’s support will erase whatever cautious optimism that has built in Ukraine over the past 12 months.

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