© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy listens during an event to thank Americans for their support of Ukraine in the war with Russia, at the National Archives in Washington, U.S., September 21, 2023. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/file photo

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday makes his first visit to close ally Canada, where he is guaranteed a warmer welcome than he received from some U.S. politicians skeptical about providing more military aid.

Canada is one of Kyiv’s staunchest supporters in the war against Russia and is set to announce during the visit that it is sending more weapons to Ukraine, according to a government official.

“Canada will continue to support Ukraine as long as it takes and we will always stand firm to defend the rule of law and the international rules based order,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in New York on Thursday.

Zelenskiy is due to address parliament in Ottawa and then hold a news conference with Trudeau. He spoke to legislators virtually in March 2022.

Ihor Michalchyshyn, executive director of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress lobby group, said Canada was influential given its membership of both the Group of Seven countries and NATO and noted all Canadian political parties support Ukraine.

“So I think it’s appropriate for the president to be expecting and asking more from his Canadian partners,” he said in an interview. “If friends of Ukraine want Ukraine to win the war, then the only way that happens is with renewed and more military support.”

There are 1.4 million people of Ukrainian descent in Canada, the third most after Ukraine and Russia.

In Washington, Zelenskiy appealed to U.S. lawmakers on Thursday for continued support amid Republican doubts over whether Congress should approve a new round of aid.

Although there are no such divisions in Canada, it does not have the deep pockets or military reserves of the United States, Germany and other major backers.

Since the beginning of 2022, Canada has committed over C$8 billion ($5.9 billion) in aid to Ukraine, including over C$1.8 billion in military assistance.

The Canadian government official said the arms deal Trudeau was likely to announce on Friday would be bigger than the C$33 million Ottawa unveiled on Sunday to help Kyiv buy missile defenses. The official requested anonymity because the final details had not yet been agreed.

David Perry, a security analyst at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said he expected Ottawa to offer more combat support vehicles as well as training for Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets as part of the arms deal.

($1 = 1.3485 Canadian dollars)

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