KYIV, (Reuters) – During a surprise visit to war-torn Kyiv on Saturday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged increased military help for Ukraine, as the country prepared for a counteroffensive against Russian soldiers and contends with frequent air attacks.

Trudeau paid his respects at a memorial site in downtown Kyiv to Ukrainian servicemen slain battling pro-Russian separatists since 2014, and he also met with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

“We will be there with (you) as much as it takes, for as long as it takes,” he stated, sitting across from Ukraine’s president in video footage given by Kyiv officials of the meeting.

NATO member Canada, which has one of the world’s biggest Ukrainian diasporas, has provided military and financial support to Kyiv during Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

“Today, I can announce that we will provide 500 million dollars in new funding for military assistance,” he said at a joint news conference.

Ukraine wants to join NATO as soon as possible, but Zelenskiy has said that this cannot happen while the conflict with Russia continues.

“Canada supports Ukraine’s accession to NATO as soon as the conditions are met.” “Ukraine and Canada look forward to addressing these issues at the NATO Summit in Vilnius in July 2023,” read a joint statement issued after the meetings.

During the negotiations, Zelenskiy expressed gratitude to Canadians for their assistance, saying, “Thank you so much.” The people of Canada, and, of course, to your whole team, the government, and the legislature. Really. “It’s (such) necessary assistance,” he remarked.

Trudeau’s visit to Kyiv came on the heels of a night of Russian missile and drone assaults on locations outside the city, including Odesa, the Poltava area, and Kharkiv.

The Canadian prime minister was joined by Ukrainian-speaking Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

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