'Can you imagine?' War-hit Ukrainian president paints dire picture for Canadians

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (on screen) addresses the Canadian parliament in Ottawa, on March 15, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

OTTAWA (REUTERS) - Nearly 100 children have died in Russia's invasion of Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday (March 15), pleading for more Western support and asking Canadian lawmakers in a video address to imagine the impact of such a war on their own country.

Addressing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directly, Zelensky said: "Imagine that on 4am... you start hearing bomb explosions... Justin, can you imagine... you and your children hear all these severe explosions?"

"Can you imagine famous CN Tower in Toronto if it was hit by Russian bombs? Of course I don't wish this on anyone, but this is our reality in which we live," he said, in a 12-minute speech that drew standing ovations in the House of Commons in Ottawa.

Russian air strikes and shelling smashed into buildings in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Tuesday as invading forces tightened their grip on the 20th day of the war.

"They're destroying everything: memorial complexes, schools, hospitals, housing complex. They already killed 97 Ukrainian children. We are not asking for much. We are asking for justice, for real support," Zelenskiy said through an interpreter.

Zelensky has sought to drum up support for Ukraine with video briefings of foreign audiences that have included the European and British parliaments.

He is also due to address the US Congress on Wednesday.

There are 1.4 million people of Ukrainian descent in Canada, the third most after Ukraine and Russia. Canada, like many other Western nations, has imposed broad sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine on Feb 24. Canada announced new sanctions on Russian government and military officials on Tuesday.

Zelensky thanked Canada for its assistance, but added the help had not been enough to end the war, repeating his appeal for friendly countries to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

"How many cruise missiles have to fall on our cities?" Zelensky asked.

Ukrainian cities such as Kharkiv, Mariupol and others "are not protected just like your cities are protected," he said.

Western countries have moved to isolate Russia from world trade and the global financial system as punishment for the invasion, but the US government has ruled out a no-fly zone, which it says would risk direct conflict with fellow nuclear-armed power Russia.

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Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine a "special operation" to demilitarise and "denazify" the country. Ukraine and the West have dismissed that justification as baseless propaganda.

On Tuesday, Moscow said it had put US President Joe Biden, Trudeau and a dozen top US officials on a "stop list" that bars them from entering Russia.

After his speech, Canadian lawmakers expressed bipartisan support for Ukraine.

Canadian party leaders also said they would welcome Ukrainian refugees. The number of refugees fleeing Ukraine since Russia invaded has crossed three million, United Nations data showed in what has become Europe's fastest growing refugee crisis since World War II.

"You are defending the right of Ukrainians to choose their own future. And in doing so, you're defending the values that form the pillars of all free democratic countries," Trudeau said when he introduced Zelensky to the House of Commons.

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