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Symbol of resistance as EU leaders head to Kyiv ‘where history is forged’

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Three European prime ministers rode a train for Kyiv on Tuesday, the first visit by foreign leaders to the Ukrainian capital since Russia launched its invasion, and a striking symbol of Ukraine’s success so far in fending off Russia’s assault.

“It is our duty to be where history is forged. Because it’s not about us, but about the future of our children who deserve to live in a world free from tyranny,” said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who set off across the border with Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Janez Jansa of Slovenia.

Fiala said the aim was “to confirm the unequivocal support of the entire European Union for the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.”

They will arrive in a city still under bombardment, where around half of the 3.4 million population has fled and many are spending nights sheltering in underground stations.

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Two powerful explosions rocked the capital before dawn on Tuesday and tracer fire lit up the night sky. A high-rise apartment building was in flames after being struck by artillery.

Firefighters tried to douse the blaze and rescue workers helped evacuate residents trapped inside using mobile ladders. A dead body lay on the ground in a bag.

Sitting on the ground outside, resident Igor Krupa said he survived because he had slept under a makeshift shelter of furniture and metal weights: “All the windows went out and all the debris went into the apartment.”

But despite shelling that has reduced some cities to rubble, Europe’s biggest invasion force since World War Two has been halted at the gates of Kyiv, nearly three weeks into a war which Western countries say Moscow believed it would win within days.

Major road and train routes from the capital are still open and Russia has failed to capture any of Ukraine’s 10 biggest cities.

Hosting foreign dignitaries in his own capital would be a remarkable achievement for President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who rejected offers to evacuate early in the war, staying under bombardment to rally his nation.

In his most confident public statement yet, Zelenskiy called on Russian troops to surrender, saying they and their officers already knew that the war was hopeless.

“You will not take anything from Ukraine. You will take lives. There are a lot of you. But your life will also be taken. But why should you die? What for? I know that you want to survive,” he said.

AT CROSSROADS

One of Zelenskiy’s top aides said the war would be over by May – and could even end within weeks – as Russia had effectively run out of fresh troops to keep fighting.

“We are at a fork in the road now: there will either be a peace deal struck very quickly, within a week or two, with troop withdrawal and everything, or there will be an attempt to scrape together some, say, Syrians for a round two and, when we grind them too, an agreement by mid-April or late April,” Oleksiy Arestovich said in a video.

“I think that no later than in May, early May, we should have a peace agreement, maybe much earlier: we will see,” Arestovich said.

The remarks projected a new-found confidence that Ukraine’s heavily outnumbered forces have thwarted what Western countries believe was Moscow’s aim – to topple Zelenskiy and install pro-Russian leaders in Kyiv.

Russia says it is not targeting civilians and is carrying out a “special operation” to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said it was too early to predict progress at talks peace talks, due to resume later on Tuesday by video link.

“The work is difficult and in the current situation the very fact that they are continuing is probably positive,” he told reporters.

In the city of Rivne in western Ukraine, hundreds of miles from the combat zone, Ukrainian officials said 19 people had been killed in a Russian air strike on a television tower. If confirmed, that would be the worst attack so far on a civilian target in Ukraine’s northwest.

Peace talks have focused so far on local ceasefires to let civilians evacuate and bring aid to surrounded cities.

Worst-hit is the southeastern port of Mariupol, where hundreds have been killed since Russia laid siege in the war’s first week. Russian troops let a first column of cars leave Mariupol on Monday but attempts to bring in aid convoys have failed for 10 straight days. Ukrainian officials said they would try again on Tuesday.

While Russia has failed to seize any big cities in the north and east, its forces have had more success in the south, where Moscow said on Tuesday it was now in control of the entire region of Kherson.

In an intelligence update on Tuesday, Britain’s ministry of defence reported demonstrations against Russian occupation in the southern cities of Kherson, Berdyansk and Melitopol, with troops firing warning shots to disperse crowds in Kherson. Russian forces were reported to have abducted the mayors of Melitopol and Dniprorudne, it said.

‘NO WAR’

The war has brought economic isolation upon Russia never before visited on such a large economy. In Russia itself, it has led to a near total crackdown on free speech, with all major independent media shut down and Western social media apps switched off.

Late on Monday, an employee of the main state TV channel stood behind an anchor during a news broadcast and held up a sign in English and Russian that said: “NO WAR. Stop the war. Don’t believe propaganda. They are lying to you here.”

She was quickly arrested. Kremlin spokesperson Peskov called her protest “hooliganism”.

The United Nations says nearly 3 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the war.

“I am fleeing with my child because I want my child to stay alive,” said Tanya who fled the southern frontline town of Mykolaiv across the Danube river to Romania. “Because the people that are there now are Russians, Russian soldiers, and they kill children.”

 

(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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Inflation in Canada: Finance ministers meet

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TORONTO – The two big spending pressures on the federal government right now are health care and the global transition to a clean economy, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Friday.
After hosting an in-person meeting with the provincial and territorial finance ministers, Freeland said U.S. President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which includes electric-vehicle incentives that favour manufacturers in Canada and Mexico as well as the U.S., has changed the playing field when it comes to the global competition for capital.

“I cannot emphasize too strongly how much I believe that we need to seize the moment and build the clean economy of the 21st century,” Freeland said during a news conference held at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

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“This is a huge economic opportunity.”

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Canada needs to invest in the transition in order to potentially have an outsized share in the economy of the future, she said, or it risks being left behind.

This year in particular will be an important year for attracting capital to Canada, she said, calling for the provinces and territories to chip in.

“This is a truly historic, once-in-a-generation economic moment and it will take a team Canada effort to seize it.”

At the same time, Freeland spoke of the need for fiscal restraint amid economic uncertainty.

“We know that one of the most important things the federal government can do to help Canadians today is to be mindful of our responsibility not to pour fuel on the fire of inflation,” she said.

Freeland said these two major spending pressures, which were among the topics prioritized at Friday’s meeting, come at a time of a global economic slowdown which poses restraint on government spending.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to meet with the premiers Feb. 7 to discuss a long-awaited deal on health-care spending. The provinces have been asking for increases to the health transfer to the tune of billions of dollars.

Freeland said it’s clear that the federal government needs to invest in health care and reiterated the government’s commitment to doing so but would not say whether she thinks the amount the provinces are asking for in increased health transfers is feasible.

“It’s time to see the numbers,” Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard said Friday afternoon, in anticipation of the Feb. 7 meeting.

The meeting of the finance ministers comes at a tense time for many Canadian consumers, with inflation still running hot and interest rates much higher than they were a year ago.

The ministers also spoke with Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem Friday and discussed the economic outlook for Canada and the world, said Freeland.

“We’re very aware of the uncertainty in the global economy right now,” said Freeland. “Inflation is high and interest rates are high.”

“Things are tough for a lot of Canadians and a lot of Canadian families today and at the federal level, this is a time of real fiscal constraint.”

The Bank of Canada raised its key interest rate again last week, bringing it to 4.5 per cent, but signalled it’s taking a pause to let the impact of its aggressive hiking cycle sink in.

The economy is showing signs of slowing, but inflation was still high at 6.3 per cent in December, with food prices in particular remaining elevated year over year.

Interest rates have put a damper on the housing market, sending prices and sales downward for months on end even as the cost of renting went up in 2022.

Meanwhile, the labour market has remained strong, with the unemployment rate nearing record lows in December at five per cent.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2023.

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Federal government is in a tight fiscal environment, Freeland says ahead of health talks – CBC.ca

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Federal government is in a tight fiscal environment, Freeland says ahead of health talks  CBC.ca

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Suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over Canadian airspace: sources – CTV News

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  1. Suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over Canadian airspace: sources  CTV News
  2. Canadian pilots were warned of ‘untethered balloon’ amid China surveillance concerns  Global News
  3. U.S. military shoots down suspected Chinese spy balloon off Carolina coast  CBC.ca

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