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Canada Vows To Support Ukraine In Wake Of Russian 'Aggression'

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shake hands at a joint press conference in Toronto on July 2.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vowed to support Ukraine in the wake of what he called Russian "aggression" and the "illegal annexation" by Russia of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

Trudeau made the remarks on July 2 after meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on the sidelines of the Ukraine Reform Conference in Toronto.

"In the wake of Russian aggression and attempts to undermine Ukraine's sovereignty, including the illegal annexation of Crimea, it's all the more important for countries like Canada to stand alongside its partner," Trudeau said.

"Russia's actions are not only a threat to Ukraine but to international law," Trudeau said.

The conference brings together representatives from 30 countries, the European Union, and international organizations like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and NATO.

Scheduled to end on July 4, the event is aimed at gathering international support for the reform process in Ukraine and for the country's path toward integration in the EU and NATO.

Trudeau said he was "dismayed" that Russia was recently reinstated in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Russia had been stripped of its voting rights in PACE in 2014 in response to its annexation of Crimea.

Trudeau noted that the reinstatement came despite Russia "having not liberated the Ukrainian sailors" or three Ukrainian naval vessels seized near the Kerch Strait by Russian forces and held since November 2018.

For his part, Zelenskiy said he was "disappointed" by the PACE decision. In protest, Ukraine announced on July 2 that it was withdrawing its invitation to PACE monitors to observe Ukraine's parliamentary elections on July 21.

He said he was confident that his party would win a majority in the parliamentary elections and be able to push ahead with reforms.

Zelenskiy was inaugurated as president on May 20 after winning an election in April on promises to root out corruption and implement reforms to improve living standards in Ukraine.

He has reaffirmed the country's goal of achieving membership in the EU and NATO.

Zelenskiy has also urged Ukraine's Western backers to keep "pressure" on Moscow over its seizure of Crimea and its support for the separatists who control parts of eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed some 13,000 people since April 2014.

Earlier on July 2, Ukrainian Finance Minister Oksana Markarova told the conference it will take years for the full effects of reforms to be seen in Ukraine as the government tries to eliminate Soviet-era institutions and rein in corruption.

Markarova, the finance minister in Ukraine's outgoing government, said Kyiv is now moving to modernize a range of institutions.

"We are doing this very quickly, but it will take years for the true results to be fully seen," she said.

Markarova also said "there will be mistakes" and "there will be a learning curve."

Other high-level participants at the conference on July 2 stressed the need for major changes to be made to Ukraine's judiciary in order to bolster the confidence of potential foreign investors.

Markarova recognized those complaints -- telling participants that foreign investors in Ukraine had complained about a lack of respect for the rule of law, poor infrastructure, and a lack of capital.

"We have to enter right now into more structural, deeper reforms, [such as[ land reform," Markarova said. "Law enforcement and judicial reforms have to be completed in order."

With reporting by Reuters
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