OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is heading to several European capitals to strategize with allies as fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine intensifies.
Trudeau will spend next week in meetings in London and Berlin as well as Riga, Latvia, and Warsaw, Poland, saying he is joining partners to stand against Moscow’s aggression and strengthen democratic values.
Allies will also work on countering “the kind of disinformation and misinformation that we know is a facet of day-to-day life these days, but a particularly strong facet of this conflict, this war in Ukraine,” Trudeau said during a news conference Friday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has chosen to use military might and violence to achieve his ends, but he will fail, Trudeau said.
“The biggest and strongest response we’ve had is actually in crippling the Russian economy, demonstrating to all Russians that Vladimir Putin made a terrible mistake,” he said.
“The co-ordinated economic sanctions are working. Russia is reeling from the strong and aligned measures that democracies around the world have engaged in.”
Canada’s foreign affairs minister met counterparts at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Friday to advance continuing efforts to sanction Russia for its invasion.
Before the meeting, Mélanie Joly said ministers planned to discuss a Russian attack on a major nuclear power plant in the eastern Ukraine city of Enerhodar.
Russian troops seized the plant, the largest in Europe, after a middle-of-the-night attack that set it on fire and briefly raised worldwide fears of a catastrophe.
Firefighters put out the blaze, and no radiation was released, United Nations and Ukrainian officials said, as Russian forces pressed on with their week-old offensive on multiple fronts and the number of refugees fleeing the country topped 1.2 million.
Joly tweeted Friday that she spoke to the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency about the episode.
“We call on the Russian regime to stop threatening nuclear sources,” she said. “A countless number of civilian lives are put at risk by these reckless acts.”
Trudeau said late Thursday he had spoken with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about the assault on the power plant.
Following the attack, Zelenskyy appealed again to the West to enforce a no-fly zone over his country. But NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg ruled out that possibility, citing the risk of a much wider war in Europe.
He said the only way to implement a no-fly zone would be to send NATO planes to enforce it by shooting down Russian aircraft.
“We understand the desperation, but we also believe that if we did that, we would end up with something that could end in a full-fledged war in Europe,” Stoltenberg said.
The refusal to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukrainian territory reveals a profound misunderstanding of the gravity of the situation in which the world finds itself, said Alexandra Chyczij, national president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.
“Russia’s war of genocide against the Ukrainian people is not only a war against Ukraine. If Putin wins in Ukraine, the rest of Europe and the world will be threatened and menaced by his regime,” Chyczij said.
“Russia is indiscriminately bombing and shelling Ukrainian civilians, purposely murdering innocent people.”
Trudeau echoed Stoltenberg in defending the decision not to implement a no-fly zone.
“The thing that we have so far avoided, and we’ll continue to need to avoid, is putting a situation in which NATO forces are in direct conflict with Russian soldiers,” he said.
“That would be a level of escalation that is unfortunate.”
In London, Trudeau plans to meet with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as well as Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, to co-ordinate additional responses to Russia’s invasion, the Canadian Prime Minister’s Office said.
Trudeau will also have an audience with the Queen during his visit.
On Tuesday, the prime minister heads to Riga, where he will meet several leaders from the region, before moving on to Germany and Poland. While in Latvia, Trudeau also plans to see Stoltenberg and Canadian Armed Forces members serving as part of Operation Reassurance.
CBC/Radio-Canada said Friday it was very concerned about new legislation passed in Russia, saying it appears to criminalize independent reporting on the current situation in Ukraine and Russia.
“In light of this situation and out of concern for the risk to our journalists and staff in Russia, we have temporarily suspended our reporting from the ground in Russia while we get clarity on this legislation,” the public broadcaster said in a statement.
“We join other media in standing up for a free press and unimpeded access to accurate, independent journalism in Ukraine and Russia.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2022.
— With files from The Associated Press
Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press