A run on Ukrainian flags, anti-war protests and iconic attractions lit up in yellow and blue: Canadians joined a global outcry over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as Ottawa on Friday targeted Vladimir Putin directly with sanctions.
Hundreds of protesters at a rally in Toronto overnight — the first of many — waved placards that read “Stop Putin, stop war,” while mayor John Tory raised a Ukrainian flag at city hall, he said in an online video, “to express solidarity with Ukraine.”
Halifax, Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver and other Canadian cities saw similar demonstrations, with more scheduled over the coming days.
“I am against this war,” said Elena Lelievre at a rally during a blizzard outside the Russian consulate in Montreal on Friday, where several Russian expats burnt their passports while chanting “hands off Ukraine.”
“I hope it marks the beginning of the end of (Putin’s) regime,” she told AFP, “but it comes at a high price.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced sanctions against Putin and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, whom he said both “bear the greatest responsibility for the death and destruction occurring in Ukraine.”
This followed similar announcements by Britain, the European Union and the United States.
“The world has responded in an unprecedented, united and coordinated way to Vladimir Putin’s grave mistake,” Trudeau said.
“He has underestimated the resolve and the ability of Western democracies to stand up to defend not just our friends, but our values, our principles.”
– Blue and yellow abound –
Fifty-seven Belarusian officials close to President Alexander Lukashenko, Trudeau added, would also face penalties “for abetting President Putin’s invasion of a free and sovereign nation.”
Lukashenko himself had been sanctioned by Ottawa last year after he claimed an overwhelming victory in an August election the opposition said was rigged.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), which represents a Ukranian diaspora of nearly 1.4 million or 3.8 percent of the population, urged a stronger response from the West to Russia’s aggression, such as imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine and banning Russia from the SWIFT payment system that banks rely on to transfer money.
Trudeau said Friday his government supports removing Russia from SWIFT, joining France and others also calling for this.
“The resources of the Free World must be marshalled in the defence of Ukraine’s liberty,” UCC president Alexandra Chyczij said in a statement.
“If (Russian President Vladimir) Putin succeeds with his assault on Ukraine, the light of freedom in Europe may be extinguished for a generation,” she warned.
Across Canada, flag sellers reported brisk sales of the Ukrainian standard, with The Flag Shop in Vancouver, for example, telling AFP they sold out.
Russian vodka and other products were ordered pulled from store shelves, in what Ontario official Peter Bethlenfalvy said was a “stand against tyranny and oppression.”
Niagara Falls and the CN Tower — the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere — were also bathed in the national colours of Ukraine.