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Axworthy urges renewed Canada-Ukraine ties despite concerns about new president

OTTAWA — Former Canadian foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy is urging Canada to renew its relationship with Ukraine while expressing some reservations about the country’s new president.

Axworthy recently returned from leading a team of 160 Canadians who helped monitor the election that saw comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy elected president earlier this week.

Axworthy said the election of a new Ukrainian president represents a chance for Canada to redouble its political and economic support for a strategically important country.

At the same time, Axworthy hinted at some concerns with Zelenskiy, whose only political experience is playing Ukraine’s president on TV.

Those included Zelenskiy’s appeal to populism, his refusal to engage with the media during the campaign, and questions over whether he will cave to Russia to end the five-year conflict ravaging eastern Ukraine.

As for Russian interference in the election, Axworthy said it is an issue Canada needs to pay more attention to and learn from — and that those worries shouldn’t be written off as simply “crying wolf.”

The Canadian Press