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Western leaders mark 2nd anniversary of Russia invasion in Kiev, pledging more money and weapons

Ukraine said Saturday it signing of 10-year bilateral security deals with Canada and Italy in which with Canada has committed to 3.02 billion this year in Canadian dollars for military and economic aid.

Published: February 24, 2024 11:28pm

World leaders arrived in Ukraine on Saturday to mark the second anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion on its neighboring country, promising solidarity and support as Ukrainian forces run low on ammunition and additional foreign aid remains uncertain. 

“This land is a piece of our home, and we will do our part to defend it,” Italy Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni declared from the Hostomel Antonov Airport, just outside the Ukrainian capital of Kiev.

She spoke alongside Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, amid burnt-out shells of buildings and vehicles.

The airport was the site of one of the first major battles of the war, according to The Associated Press.

“Two years ago, here, we met enemy landing forces with fire," Zelensky said. "Two years later, we meet our friends and our partners here.”

The other world leaders who attended the anniversary event were Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

They arrived in Kiev just after a Russian drone attack reportedly struck a residential building in the southern city of Odesa, killing at least one person.

“More now than ever we stand firmly by Ukraine – financially, economically, militarily, morally," von der Leyen said. 

Hours later, Zelenskyy’s office announced the signing of 10-year bilateral security deals with Canada and Italy, with Canada  committing to send Ukraine 3.02 billion in Canadian dollars this year for military and economic aid, the wire service also reports. (The amount is roughly $2.2B in U.S. dollars.)

Rome promised much-needed long-range weapons.

"We will continue to support Ukraine in what I have always deemed the just right of its people to defend itself,” Meloni said in a joint press conference about the agreement.

Italy has the presidency this year of the G-7, the informal grouping of seven of the world's advanced economies. She chose Ukraine as the site of the group's first meeting of 2024.

Also on Saturday Jens Stoltenberg, the head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, marked the war anniversary by declaring it was “a matter of when, not if” Ukraine would one day join the 31-member alliance.

The NATO charter obligates member countries to come to each other’s aid if attacked.

Stoltenberg urged allies to stand strong in their support for Ukraine, saying "We must not lose heart."

Other G-7 leaders, including President Joe Biden, participated in Saturday’s conference via video link, though France’s Emmanuel Macron skipped even that, instead focusing on agricultural protests in his country.

Aside from Canada, France, Italy, and the U.S., the G-7 includes Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom. 

The G-7’s joint statement, agreed to Saturday, reaffirmed the group’s “unwavering support for Ukraine and again commended the bravery and resilience of the Ukrainian people.”

The declaration comes in the wake of recent reports of Russian advances on the battlefield and the mysterious death of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, who was being held in a Siberian penal colony. Navalny supporters said Saturday that the 47-year-old’s body was returned to his family

On Friday, the Biden White House announced hundreds of new sanctions on Russia in protest of Navalny’s death and the continued war.  

Earlier this month, the Senate passed a $95 billion package that included aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. But the measure is still being held up in the Republican-led House, with Biden working to sell the deal by stressing that most of the money would be spent in the U.S. 

Even if the package finally makes it through Congress it will almost certainly be the last aid Ukraine will see from the U.S. until after the November elections – if at all. 

Donald Trump, the former president and almost-certain 2024 GOP presidential nominee, has called for a negotiated settlement in the Russia-Ukraine war, and has said that as president he would halt U.S. aid to the embattled country.