Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday unveiled plans to create a task force to counter Russian disinformation and propaganda, as Ukrainians prepare to mark the sixth anniversary of Moscow’s invasion of their country.
The Prime Minister announced the new initiative as part of a package of new Canadian measures designed to support Ukraine and punish Russia for launching a war that has killed tens of thousands of people and whose effects are being felt in the whole world.
Canada is also imposing sanctions on 62 other people, including those the government has described as several Russian regional governors and their families, as well as a Russian company whose products include anti-drone equipment.
Ottawa also plans to spend nearly $4 million on two projects aimed at strengthening Ukraine’s military and police services, including training to help Ukrainian police officers better handle cases of sexual trauma as well as mental health programs.
Trudeau revealed the package at a special meeting of leaders of countries that have supported Ukraine since Russian forces first entered the country on February 24, sparking the biggest conflict in Europe since World War II. .
Theoretically intended to discuss Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014, the meeting also came as Ukrainians prepared to mark the anniversary of their country’s independence on Wednesday. screwed up by the Soviet Union in 1991.
Appearing via video link from Toronto alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is in the middle of a three-day visit to Canada, Trudeau accused Russia of wrongly blaming Western sanctions for escalating food prices and shortages around the world.
While Russian officials have blamed sanctions imposed in response to its invasion of Ukraine for the food crisis, Canada and its allies say Moscow is responsible for disrupting essential Ukrainian food production and exports.
“I want to reiterate once again that there are no sanctions on food. When the Russian regime blames sanctions for the food crisis in the world, it is engaging in misinformation,” Trudeau said.
“We must continue to fight against Russian disinformation. That is why Canada will create a dedicated team to help increase our ability to monitor and detect disinformation from Russia and other states.
Ottawa will launch a new effort to counter Russian #disinformation: @JustinTrudeau. #CDNPoli #UkraineInvasion #Russia
The prime minister did not provide further details in his brief address to the meeting, which included Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and his office referred questions to the office of Foreign Minister Melanie Joly.
Joly’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The government has already called on various federal departments and agencies, including the Department of Defense and the Communications Security Establishment, to publicly denounce what it considers Russian disinformation and propaganda.
Scholz echoed Trudeau’s claim that Russia’s invasion “was responsible for deteriorating food security, with grave implications for people around the world,” even as the German leader reiterated the his country’s continued support for Ukraine.
Meanwhile, a sense of dread heightened in Ukraine on Tuesday over warnings that Russia may try to spoil the country’s Independence Day holiday and mark the six-month point in the war with intensified attacks.
The United States added to the concern with a security alert citing “reports that Russia is intensifying efforts to launch strikes against civilian infrastructure and government facilities in Ukraine in the coming days.”
Kyiv authorities have banned mass gatherings in the capital until Thursday over fears of missile attacks around Independence Day, and Zelenskyy warned over the weekend that Russia “might try to do something something particularly mean, something particularly cruel”.
On Tuesday, however, Zelenskyy emphasized defiance rather than concern when he raised the national flag at a memorial a day before Independence Day.
“The blue and yellow flag of Ukraine will fly again where it rightfully should be – in all temporarily occupied towns and villages of Ukraine,” he said, including the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.
He added: “It is necessary to liberate Crimea from occupation. It will end where it started.
At a separate event, Zelenskyy appeared to downplay the threats, indicating that he expected at most increased intensity rather than new targets, and he added: “No one wants to die, but no one wants to die. is afraid of Russia, and this is the most important sign. »
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 23, 2022.
– with files from the Associated Press.