European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday paid tribute to Ukrainian women fighting against Russia and denounced sexual violence widely attributed to Moscow forces, calling the invasion a ‘war on women’s rights’. “.
Addressing a joint session of parliament on the eve of International Women’s Day, von der Leyen pointed out that women, who were barred from joining Ukraine’s armed forces, “kicked down the doors” and “shattered the glass ceiling right above the heads of their Russian invaders” to fight for their country.
“These women are an inspiration to all of us,” she said, receiving one of many standing ovations from MPs and senators.
European Commission President pays tribute to Ukrainian women on the eve of International Women’s Day
Von der Leyen recalled his visit to Bucha, Ukraine, the site of atrocities against civilians allegedly committed by Russian troops shortly after his release last April and the stories of “cold-blooded rapes and executions”. .
“The United Nations says Russia is using rape and sexual violence as part of its military strategy in Ukraine,” she said.
“It’s not just a war on Ukraine. It’s also a war on human rights and it’s a war on women’s rights.
The United Nations says it has confirmed the killing of at least 2,296 women and girls since the start of the Russian invasion more than a year ago, adding that the true number is “probably much higher”.
Nearly 70% of war-displaced Ukrainians who remain in the country are women, he adds, putting them at higher risk of sexual violence, human trafficking and other forms of violence. sexist.
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Von der Leyen devoted most of his 30-minute speech to the situation in Ukraine, emphasizing Canadian and European cooperation and a commitment to help that country fight its invaders “as long as it will have to”.
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“We will never accept a military power with fantasies of empire rolling its tanks across an international border,” she said.
“We will never accept this threat to European security and to the very foundation of our international community. And I know that Canada’s commitment is just as categorical as ours.
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She also thanked Canada for its leadership in providing military training to Ukrainian fighters under Operation Unifier, which is based in Europe, and for its continued support.
Von der Leyen, who is the first woman elected to the presidency of the European Commission, concluded her remarks by calling for further action on gender equality.
She said Canada and the European Union have shown the world the benefits of equal government on decision-making, but there is still much to be done.
“We have a duty to set an example to society and the economy of what a world of fair opportunity looks like,” she said.
Earlier today, during an event with von der Leyen in Kingston, Ontario, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada would extend the Operation Unifier mission to provide engineering training in Ukraine until October at least, and that Canadian medical trainers will be sent to help the Ukrainians. forces with combat medicine skills.
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Trudeau announced that Ottawa will also spend $3 million to support the clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnance in Ukraine, in addition to the $32 million already committed for mine action. The European Union is investing 43 million euros in the same effort.
The EU has now named Canada as a partner country on economic sanctions against Russia, and the two are working together to send Canadian power transformers to support Ukraine’s power grid, seven of which will soon be delivered.
The two leaders also met with members of the Canadian Armed Forces at CFB Kingston who have been deployed to Poland to assist Ukrainian refugees.
“As long as it takes, we will stand with our European partners for Ukraine,” Trudeau said.
Von der Leyen is due to meet Governor General Mary Simon on Wednesday morning.
— with files from The Canadian Press
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