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Canada has made a point of reopening its embassy in Ukraine. Why?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to reopen the Canadian embassy in Kyiv on Sunday sends a signal to Russia that Canada is steadfast in its support for Ukraine, the federal government has said.

Canada is slowly restoring its diplomatic presence in the Ukrainian capital nearly three months after closing its embassy when Russia began mobilizing troops along the Ukrainian border.

Now entering its 11th week, Kremlin forces have made little or no recent progress in their offensive, as Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday sought to justify war on Victory Day, the country’s biggest patriotic holiday. .

“By resuming diplomatic operations in Ukraine and once again displaying the Canadian flag in the streets of kyiv, we are sending a clear message to Ukraine and its people: we believe that Ukraine can win this war and that it will win it, and Canada stands with the people of Kyiv. Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression,” said Adrien Blanchard, spokesperson for Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly’s cabinet.

Joly, who joined Trudeau on his surprise visit to Ukraine, told CBC’s “Power and Politics” Monday that Putin’s invasion “is a failure and will continue to be a failure.”

“What needs to be done is to strengthen the Ukrainian forces on the ground,” she said.

Reopening the Canadian embassy is part of that job, Blanchard told the Star.

“Being on the ground will allow our ambassador and his staff to further support Ukraine’s diplomatic efforts and contribute to Ukraine’s reconstruction, including cooperating with (non-governmental organizations) and the Ukrainian military to assist in the clearance of war-torn areas,” he said.

Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Larisa Galadza, is now working with a small team to gradually restore operations in the region after embassy staff were temporarily relocated to the western city of Lviv – and later, to Poland – at the start of the invasion.

The Embassy will not be able to immediately provide a full range of services; consular and immigration matters, for example, will still be handled from Poland and other European cities for the time being.

The reopening of the embassy is also unlikely to speed up Canada’s processing of visa applications for those wishing to enter this country.

“The Canadian Embassy does not accept visa applications. IRCC had to use our existing temporary resident visa processes, networks and infrastructure to bring as many Ukrainians to Canada as possible, as well as prioritize all Ukrainian applications within our system,” said Aidan Strickland, Door -spokesman from the office of Immigration Minister Sean Fraser.

Strickland said Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada was able to process most of the applications it received “within the 14-day service window” during the embassy’s closure, in part due to the deployment of additional personnel, supplies and equipment to regions surrounding Ukraine.

Still, the decision comes as Ottawa faces continued criticism for its failure to quickly roll out several measures to help fleeing Ukrainians, including a promise to offer charter flights to those hoping to settle in Canada. .

“There are logistical issues that need to be resolved. Not everyone who applied is where they applied at the time, so now we’re coordinating where everyone is and who wants to come so we can facilitate pick-up points and landing points,” said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra told reporters on Monday.

Opening the doors of the embassy could help solve some of these problems, said Jane Boulden, an international relations expert at Queen’s University and the Royal Military College of Canada.

“It just makes life easier in logistical terms to have staff there to deal with a whole host of things that are going on in terms of bilateral relations between the two countries…everything from refugees and how they are dealt with, to sanctions, to provide military support,” Boulden said.

“It makes a huge difference to have people on the ground in the country, making one-to-one connections, rather than being in Poland.”

Canada’s decision follows those of many European countries that had already re-established their diplomatic presence in Ukraine. It also sends a message, Boulden said, that Ukrainian forces were successful in making such a move possible.

“It sends a signal to Ukraine, as well as other international actors, that in our opinion … we can do this in a safe and secure manner,” Boulden said.

“The fact that Russian strategy is very overtly focused on the east and the south means that other parts of the country feel much safer than they did a few weeks ago.”

With files from The Associated Press


Raisa Patel is an Ottawa journalist who covers federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @R_SPatel