NATO must avoid ‘direct conflict with Russian soldiers’ while supporting Ukraine: Trudeau

Trudeau said Canada had rightly decided decades ago not to develop nuclear weapons and that all NATO allies wanted to avoid any escalation of the conflict

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Canada will continue to offer arms to Ukraine and impose sanctions on Russia, but said the conflict should not escalate to the point where troops from the would face Russian soldiers, which could trigger a nuclear conflict.

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“What we have avoided so far, and what we will continue to avoid, is bringing NATO forces into direct conflict with Russian soldiers,” he told a conference in press in the Toronto area on Friday. “That would be a level of escalation which is unfortunate, which we need to avoid.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has raised the alert level of his nuclear forces and spoken ominously of “consequences you’ve never seen” for countries that interfere with his invasion of Ukraine.

Trudeau said Canada rightly decided decades ago not to develop nuclear weapons and that all NATO allies wanted to avoid any escalation of the conflict.

“We take very seriously and have always taken the responsibility to move towards nuclear disarmament and, in fact, to protect all the inhabitants of this planet against the threat of nuclear war,” he said. “We unreservedly condemn Russian thinking about nuclear as a potential option. We know we need to solve this problem together. We must end the fighting in Ukraine.

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NATO countries have provided Ukraine with money and arms, but no NATO country has put its troops or planes into direct combat in Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has requested a no-fly zone over the country, but to enforce this, NATO forces would likely have to come into conflict with Russian forces.

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Trudeau said he hoped the economic damage inflicted by bans on Russian products, sanctions on Putin and the oligarchs, and restrictions on Russia’s central bank would force Putin to back down.

“The biggest and strongest response we’ve had is actually crippling the Russian economy, showing all Russians that Vladimir Putin made a terrible mistake,” he said. “We are responding with economic tools that will have far more impact on the world than Putin’s army can.”

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He also praised the efforts of Ukrainian soldiers who put up a provocative resistance.

Trudeau spoke Thursday evening with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after Russian forces reportedly bombed near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.

The conflict caused a fire at the station, which was eventually extinguished. Radiation levels remained normal, but the situation was alarming for world leaders and nuclear regulators.

The prime minister said Russian soldiers should not be in Ukraine, but all parties should exercise special caution around nuclear facilities.

“Obviously we need to see a great deal of caution and a de-escalation of violence in general in Ukraine, but particularly around the nuclear power plants, which would be a level of escalation of this crisis and a problem that no one wants to see. “

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Alexandra Chyczij, national president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, said the Trudeau government and all NATO countries should do more, including imposing a no-fly zone.

“This refusal to impose a no-fly zone on Ukrainian territory demonstrates a deep misunderstanding of the gravity of the situation the world finds itself in after Russia launched its all-out assault on Ukraine,” he said. she said in a statement.

The united response we are showing now is unprecedented and we want to keep pushing it further

She said NATO fears of a nuclear response from Russia ignore the recklessness of Putin’s regime.

“NATO feared that its intervention would trigger a nuclear response from Russia. Last night Russia triggered a nuclear response by bombing Europe’s largest nuclear facility in Zaporizhzhia,” she said. “This gratuitous recklessness could soon have catastrophic consequences for the entire world. By not reacting quickly and by projecting weakness, the world is encouraging Putin to continue with his plans to annihilate Ukraine and its people.

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Trudeau also announced he would travel to Europe next week for meetings in the UK, Latvia, Germany and Poland.

“Over the past few weeks we have worked together and coordinated together and the opportunity is to sit down with key leaders in Europe and talk about how we are supporting Ukraine more, how we are fighting more against Russia.

A senior government official speaking in the background because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said the purpose of the trip was to better coordinate with allies on sanctions and other measures to curb the Russian aggression.

“It’s less about whether Canada and its allies will provide more support to Ukraine than about what,” they said.

“The united response we are showing now is unprecedented and we want to keep pushing it further.”

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Trudeau will begin the trip to London arriving on Sunday where he will meet Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte. He will also have a separate audience with Queen Elizabeth.

He will then travel to Riga in Latvia on Tuesday and meet Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš of Latvia and the Prime Ministers of Estonia and Lithuania. He will also meet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Latvia and Canadian troops stationed there.

He will travel to Berlin on March 9 and meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz before ending his trip in Warsaw, where he will meet President Andrzej Duda.

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Joan J. Holland