Canada FM reafirms support for Kiev on visit

Kiev (AFP) –


Canada's Foreign Minister on Wednesday affirmed her country's "inviolable support" for Ukraine during visit to Kiev, following presidential elections won by comedian Volodymyr Zelensky.

Chrystia Freeland was the first G7 minister to visit Ukraine since the vote, which brought a political novice to the head of a country fighting a Russia-backed insurgency in its east.

"I want to underline that Canada fully supports Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Freeland, who is of Ukrainian descent, said in Ukrainian during her meeting with Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman.

"We understand that Ukraine is currently defending not only its democracy but also the democracy worldwide," she added.

Freelend also met president-elect Zelensky and the outgoing Petro Poroshenko, who charted a pro-Western course over his term in power.

Freeland's meeting with Zelensky in a Kiev restaurant lasted an hour and a half, according to a source familiar with the matter.

She compared Zelensky to Canada's prime minister Justin Trudeau, according to Zelensky's press office.

Zelensky, who will take office in the coming weeks, told Freeland he has "a chance" to end the war in the east and promised to redouble efforts in the fight against corruption.

"We have a chance to stop the fire and reclaim the Donbass," he said, according his press office.

"We do not want to talk about the fight against corruption, we want to triumph over it," he added.

The conflict between the Ukrainian government and breakaway rebels began after Moscow annexed Kiev's Crimea peninsula in 2014. The war has claimed some 13,000 lives.

Kiev and its Western backers accuse Russia of funnelling troops and arms across the border to fan the flames of the conflict.

Canada and Freeland herself have been among Kiev's strongest supporters.