‘We are all Ukrainian,’ envoy tells Canada as he laments breakdown in world order


Published February 24, 2022 at 5:48 pm

OTTAWA — As the world watched war arrive in Ukraine, Andrii Bukvych was hearing first-hand accounts from family and loved ones in Kyiv. His mother, his sister and her son could hear the explosions, while friends saw Russian helicopters overhead as columns of tanks rolled towards the capital city.

“Ironically, it seems like a Netflix TV show with alternative history. But the problem is that this is something real that happens right now,” Bukvych, Ukraine’s chargé d’affaires in Canada, said in an interview in Ottawa on Thursday.

The Ukraine envoy called on Canada and its allies need to do everything it can to stop Russia’s invasion of his country, otherwise “World War Three” awaits them.

Bukvych said Ukraine wants to see the Canadian government and the West impose crippling sanctions and cut diplomatic relations. It would also like to see NATO enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine to prevent Russian aerial bombardment of his citizens.

Bukvych said he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin will push his military onward through NATO countries such as Poland and the Baltics if he is not stopped now.

“We do understand there is a high toll that the free world economy of Western economies will pay for deterring Russia, for supporting Ukraine,” Bukvych said.

“But I believe that this toll is still much more less than having World War Three, which will inevitably take place unless Putin will be stopped in Ukraine.”

Bukvych said the Russian invasion marked the day when “a new page in the history of humanity” was being written, a chapter that marked the undoing of three-quarters of a century of relative peace that the world enjoyed in the aftermath of the Second World War.

The war spawned the creation of international institutions such as the United Nations, the NATO military alliance and the global finance and trading system, the rules-based international order that Canada helped create with the aspiration of staving off another massive global conflict.

Instead, Bukvych said the clock has now been turned back to the 1930s when Russian dictator Josef Stalin sought to exterminate Soviet Ukrainians through starvation — the Holodomor — which killed 3.5 million of them. Canada views the Holodomor as a genocide and that’s what Bukvych said was no unfolding in his country again. 

“It still struck me that this happens right now in the 21st century,” said Bukvych. “Ukrainian kids are now wearing badges with their blood type on their sleeve so that if something happens, they could be helped in hospitals … We’re also talking now about genocide and a humanitarian disaster.”

Deputy Prime Minster Chrystia Freeland, who is of Ukrainian descent and has been banned by Putin from travelling to Russia because she wrote critically about him in her pre-political career as a journalist, said the current Russian president would be held in infamy.

“History will judge President Putin as harshly as the world condemns him today. Today, he cements his place in the ranks of the reviled European dictators who caused such carnage in the 20th century,” said Freeland.

Freeland added that the “horrific human costs of this cruel invasion are the direct and personal responsibility of Vladimir Putin, who has chosen to invade a sovereign democracy and challenge the rules-based international order.”

Freeland was asked later at a news conference whether she thought the Russian invasion marked the end of the postwar order, as Bukvych suggested.

“It could be,” said Freeland. “This is an extremely serious challenge to that order. And if Russia succeeds, then that order will be breached. And we can’t let that happen.” 

She said if that happened it would be “devastating for the world. And it would be really bad for Canada. Canada was one of the countries that built the rules-based international order after the Second World War. Canadians fought and died to build that order.”

Bukvych said all Canadians, their political leaders and “all the free world” need to understand the wake-up call that has happened. He said he appreciated the outpouring of support from a country where 1.3 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent have planted roots.

“And this time,” he added, “I want every Canadian to be Ukrainian because to be Ukrainian right now, to be with Ukraine right now, it means that you are fighting for your freedom.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2022.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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